Washington pulls bid to limit homeless access to rooms

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 06, 2015 12:00 PM

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The District of Columbia on Friday withdrew a request for a court order that would let the U.S. capital put homeless families in shelters on cold nights rather than in individual rooms.

Mayor Muriel Bowser's administration had filed the emergency motion late on Thursday. The filing said Washington was within a day of running out of space for families in hotel rooms.

A city spokeswoman said the motion filed in District of Columbia Superior Court had been pulled after the city secured an additional 100 hotel rooms.

"We believe that would be adequate to see us through the hypothermia season," the spokeswoman said in an email.

The U.S. capital is among a handful of U.S. jurisdictions where the government is legally obligated to provide shelter when the temperature falls below freezing.

An influx of newcomers has put the city's population at a level not seen in decades and sent the cost of housing soaring, worsening the homelessness problem.

The city's Department of Human Services has more than 800 families in emergency shelters, which include space at a disused hospital and other sites. The District of Columbia places 50 homeless families in shelter a week, while only 10 leave it, the court filing said.

Superior Court Judge Robert Tignor ordered the city in March to begin vacating recreation centers that had been partitioned as shelters for families. He ruled that families should each get a separate room.

The court filing said the city had agreements with hotels to provide a total of 370 rooms.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Eric Beech and Mohammad Zargham)