October 23, 2020
This property (3701 Benning Road NE) was recently bought by CORE DC for the purpose of developing a halfway house that would serve DC residents released from the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). For many years HOPE Village located in Southeast DC was the halfway house that DC residents returned to from the BOP. HOPE Village was privately run and managed. Over the years the feedback from returning citizens was overwhelmingly negative about conditions at HOPE Village and the the services they received. For years, advocates in DC urged the BOP to end its relationship with the private owners and offer a contract to a different vendor who had a proven track record of running halfway houses. When the coronavirus hit, HOPE Village was unable to provide safe space for its residents and it closed in April, 2020. CORE DC another private vendor who manages a halfway house for returning citizens in Brooklyn, NY was awarded the contract for DC. Advocates have been encouraged by CORE DC's presentations and looked forward to CORE DC building a half way house on Benning Road (picture above)
But now a new obstacle has arisen. Members of the community through their ANC have filed an application to designate the building as an historic landmark. This application prevents CORE DC from beginning to develop the property for a halfway house. The DC Historic Preservation Review Board will review this application on November 19. It is hard not conclude that several factors are prompting this application for historic status. Members of the community don't want returning citizens near them. They complain that the facility will be too large because it will house up to 300 residents. Additionally, real estate developers and local politicians see this property as place to develop. If the Historic Preservation Review Board accepts the application for historic status or even if it takes it time to make a decision, DC may never have a half way house. The BOP will decide to find another site outside of the District. DC residents returning home will find themselves once again displaced.
The upshot of all this is that no one will be held accountable for not providing an adequate halfway house for DC residents who are returning citizens. The BOP will say that they tried to give a contract but the community obstacles were too great to overcome. The Mayor and the Council members will say that it the BOP did not handle this right. Everyone in power will be able to walk away and once again we as a society will fail those who want to rebuild their lives. Too often people say they are against mass incarceration. But when given the opportunity to do something about it, they walk away.