District Day Center is a Vital Work in Progress
The daytime drop-in service center next to Adams Place Emergency Shelter offers single male adults the assistance they need to transition out of homelessness.
Located in northeast D.C., the drop-in center provides individuals with shower facilities, a place to do laundry and a reading area. Most importantly, it gives people experiencing homelessness an opportunity to get in touch with services that will make their situation as brief as possible.
The People for Fairness Coalition (PFFC) has been advocating for a center like this for several years. Opening up in May, the day center is run and funded by the Department of Human Services.
The need for a drop-in day center is emphasized by the long stretch of time during the day when homeless individuals have nowhere to go. Like Adams Place Shelter, run by Catholic Charities, most shelters only remain open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. during non-hypothermia conditions. That leaves residents a 12-hour window during the day with no shelter.
“Basically what we found was that there was a gap in service in terms of programs and activities for individuals experiencing homelessness when the shelters close in the morning,” said Dora Taylor, Public Information Officer for DHS.
The idea was to create a day center for single men because families experiencing homelessness have access to shelters that are open 24 hours a day. Individuals don’t.
The workshops the center offers help people process homelessness, understand what services the city offers, and set some goals for themselves.
Robert Warren, alongside Reginald Black and Albert Towsend, are formerly homeless individuals that advocated for the center as part of the PFFC. They currently offer their mentoring services as short-term DHS employees.
“We hold group sessions in order to get you hooked up into the process of figuring out what kind of housing you will be best qualified for and how to get you housing,” said Warren, Director of PFFC. “We have really begun to build some really strong relationships with the men over there.”
The center is set up to take in 100 men a day and now they are averaging 60-70 men that come and use their different services.
“The more you make a situation less stressful for the individual, the outcome is going to be better,” Warren said. “It is about being able to relax and be able to wash your clothes and take a shower and talk to someone about what your situation is and what you might need.”
Reginald Black emphasizes how important outreach is in order to connect individuals to the services offered at the drop-in center.
“Everywhere I am, if I see somebody I know that is experiencing housing instability, I ask him to come on over because we can check if they’ve been assessed,” Black said. “That goes a long way.”
The center can re-certify consumers for food stamps and Medicaid, and also helps them to acquire a phone.
Antione Bishop is an individual that regularly stops by the drop-in day center. The most helpful service that he thinks the day center provides is help with housing.
“They give you the right information like how to qualify. They get you on the waitlist,” Bishop said. “Housing is definitely number one.”
The day center also offers women the option of showering in their facilities specially designated for them.
The Department of Human Services is hosting a job and resource fair held by their Food Stamp Employment and Training Program on October 7 for which the day center will serve as central point of pick up and drop off for individuals who want to attend.
“At the department we really try to use the day center as a pivotal point of outreach for individuals,” Taylor said.
The ultimate goal for DHS and PFFC is to have a drop-in day center located in downtown D.C. where more people experiencing homelessness can access the services. Adams Place was initially conceived to be a temporary location for the drop-in center.
If the drop-in center at Adams Place has to close down, transportation will be provided to individuals who wish to use the services at the downtown location, but don’t live in the area.
“I’m certain that when the new day center opens no one will be remorseful, because it is slated to be a lot more state-of-the-art than this one,” Taylor said.
Ultimately, the drop-in center was sited to be temporary, but whether it closes down or not depends on how much it is used and the amount that the services are utilized, according to Taylor.
Ideally, the District wants to be able to provide people experiencing homelessness with smaller shelters located across the city in order to provide them with the best one-on-one services possible.
Warren believes that opening smaller shelters across the city may be feasible, but there needs to be a greater buy-in from the community in order to do so. He says that people seem to be on board with the idea until a shelter opens up across the street from them.
Despite all of the work put into the drop-in center so far, there is still much to be done.
“We have little kinks that we’re still working on, like getting the cable installed, the little things, but all in all it is really shaping up to be a place that is going to be really helpful to bring down the number of people in the city who experience homelessness,” Warren said. “Were giving folks a place where they can just be, and not be the homeless person on the street.”