- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) - The District of Columbia has released a multimillion dollar plan to close a troubled homeless shelter within a year.

To offset the closure, Mayor Vincent Gray’s plan calls for leasing or building six facilities across the city to each house up to 50 homeless families.

Landlords would renovate privately owned buildings and turn them over to the city as shelters by fall 2015. Once the smaller shelters are open, the city would demolish the nearly 300-room D.C. General shelter.

The plan, which carries a price tag of at least $52 million, is contingent on identifying vacant buildings and charitable landlords willing to provide housing to the homeless. Critics said those hurdles are just too high.

“How many 50-unit buildings are there out there in thriving neighborhoods that aren’t being used?” Jenny Reed, deputy director of the nonprofit D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, told The Washington Post, (https://wapo.st/1vcQutA ).

Gray said in a statement that the plan is “a workable way for us to move forward on closing the D.C. General shelter and replacing it with temporary housing that is more appropriate for families.”

Officials in Gray’s administration said they worked throughout the summer to come up with a detailed plan to replace the unsanitary and dysfunctional shelter in the wake of the disappearance of 8-year-old shelter resident Relisha Rudd.

Relisha, who has been missing since March 1 and is believed dead, was last seen with a janitor who worked at the shelter, where she was living with her family. The janitor, Kahlil Tatum, was later found dead of apparent suicide during the search for Relisha.

Gray’s plan was released Tuesday less than an hour before a special hearing convened by D.C. Council member Jim Graham at the D.C. General campus. After perusing the plan, which Graham said he didn’t get until after the special hearing was supposed to start, Graham said it would take “a wizard” to make it work.

Even as the city grapples with the future of D.C. General, the Department of General Services has taken steps to freshen up the shelter, including putting in a playground, tidying up common areas and repainting.

Stephanie Williams, a 27-year-old shelter resident, cried Tuesday as she said her family had abandoned her and that she had no foreseeable way to afford an apartment in the city.

“I would do anything to get out of D.C. General,” she said.

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Information from: The Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com

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