Advocates Witness Encampment Evictions in D.C. and Urge National Park Service and D.C. Officials to Halt Sweeps

The National Park Service and the administration of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser began forcibly removing five homeless encampments in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, D.C., on May 16. Staff members and advocates from NLIHC, the Way Home Campaign, and many local and national partners stood with our unhoused neighbors at the first encampment to be removed to speak out against the forced removals and call for real and humane solutions to homelessness. NLIHC also joined 11 national organizations in issuing a statement opposing the D.C. encampment evictions.

The encampment evictions – scheduled to take place through May 20 – are counterproductive to efforts to end homelessness. The actions will displace approximately 90 people, many of whom were already forcibly removed in February 2023 from D.C.’s McPherson Square by the National Park Service at the direction of the local D.C. government (see Memo, 2/21/23). Dozens of tents and personal belongings were discarded, and at least 17 individuals had no choice but to move to significantly less safe conditions, including highway underpasses. No individuals were moved into stable housing. D.C. has hundreds of unused housing vouchers and is weeks away from opening a new non-congregate shelter in Foggy Bottom, making these evictions especially cruel. Advocates continue to urge the Bowser administration and the National Parks Service to halt the evictions and shift their focus to connecting encampment residents with the resources they need.

The National Park Service originally scheduled a small encampment closure months ago before recently expanding the scope of these evictions. With the expansion, the local D.C. government decided to close additional encampment sites on the same timeline. Forcibly removing people experiencing homelessness violates best practices and proven solutions to end homelessness and only makes it more difficult for individuals to be connected to homes and services.

D.C. has made recent progress towards ending chronic homelessness through funding vouchers and offering shelter options, such as The Aston, a non-congregate shelter scheduled to open near the encampments that are scheduled to be removed. The Aston was scheduled to open last fall, but the opening has been delayed until August. Forcing encampment residents to leave when they have nowhere else to go and when there is a non-congregate shelter opening soon nearby is particularly cruel and ineffective.

The Way Home Campaign, a coalition of thousands of people committed to ending chronic homelessness in D.C., called on the National Park Service and the Bowser administration to stop the evictions and instead devote their energy and resources to more productive measures, such as implementing an existing plan to end homelessness and connect encampment residents to already funded housing options. In a letter to the Bowser administration and National Parks Service, The Way Home Campaign and supporting organizations, including NLIHC, call on them to:

  • Avoid encampment evictions, closures, and establishment of “no tent zones,” except in the rarest of circumstances when health and safety concerns must be addressed.
  • Whenever possible, address health and safety concerns without evicting the encampment, displacing residents, and/or establishing no tent zones.
  • Stop all the encampment evictions until The Aston opens and every encampment resident is provided with a solution that meets their needs.
  • Address barriers to DC’s larger shelter system (such as curfews, limits on possessions, and strict program rules) and expand non-congregate shelter capacity.
  • Shift focus from closing encampments to swiftly connecting residents to housing vouchers, and fund programs and services that end homelessness, such as permanent supportive housing, street outreach, and more.

Local or national organizations can join The Way Home Campaign’s sign-on letter here, contact officials here, or email Nadia Malik at Miriam’s Kitchen for more information at:

Read the joint statement opposing the D.C. encampment evictions at: