Federal and city officials have reportedly committed to removing the rampant homeless encampments in the nation’s capital by the end of next year.
After years of proliferating homeless tent cities popping up throughout Washington, D.C., the National Park Service (NPS) will be playing a crucial role in getting rid of them within the next 12 months, according to The Spectator World.
The NPS has cleared homeless encampments in the city’s prominent McPherson Square and Scott Circle within the past month, and the federal agency also helped rid homeless from the area outside Union Station earlier this year prior to President Biden’s speech at the historic train and bus depot.
Such removals are reportedly part of an extensive plan by NPS to enforce its “no-camping regulation” throughout Washington, D.C., which aims to remove all homeless encampments on national park land by the end of 2023.
NPS will be working with the city’s social services to provide D.C.’s displaced homeless with temporary and long-term housing, as well as treatments for drug addiction and mental health issues, according to The Spectator World.
NPS officials stoked controversy when they removed a homeless encampment last week from Fort Reno Park in the affluent Tenleytown neighborhood of northwest Washington, D.C., which prompted accusations of “eviction” from detractors, according to the outlet.
Fliers emerged locally urging city residents to complain to the Rock Creek National Park Service, which has jurisdiction over the park, and to Democratic Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who has sat in Congress since 1991 without the power to vote.
“Park residents are being evicted with only a week’s notice during hypothermia season as temperatures begin to plummet,” one flyer read. “Call Rock Creek Park NPS and Eleanor Holmes Norton and demand this dangerous and inhumane eviction be stopped.”
The NPS said the park had been closed following “numerous” reports of violence and criminal behavior, The Spectator World reported.
“The United States Park Police reported numerous instances of criminal activity and violence related to the encampment at Fort Reno, and closing the encampment allowed the NPS to ensure the safety of the general public and those living in the encampment,” a spokesperson said.
“Social service organizations are working with two individuals to provide access to cold-weather shelters until they are provided with permanent housing,” the NPS explained. “The other two individuals are working with additional social service organizations to receive longer-term transitional housing.”
The NPS said they have gotten complaints regarding both the homeless encampments in the park and the safety of the homeless who have been residing there. Local activists did not impede their efforts to clear the park last week, they said.
Despite appearances, homelessness in Washington, D.C., has decreased by 47% since 2016, according to The Economist.