Library Users Demonstrate as MLK Closes

Press Alert: District Library Dynamos
For Immediate Release: Chris Otten 202 810 2768

MLK Interim Plan for Homeless Services Released Day Before Library Closure: Shows Limited Services and Hours in Far Flung Locations; Library users will demonstrate at the time MLK closes

Washington, DC – The Mayor’s Office of Community Relations and Services (MOCRS) today released an interim plan of services for MLK library users that happen to be homeless.

The plan outlines meager transportation options and services that will be available during the three years that the central library is expected to be closed for renovation. Most disappointing to advocates is the lack of any downtown day center in spite of its long being called for.

“There is no replacement downtown day program or refuge for homeless residents who currently enjoy those services offered by MLK Library during the day,” said Eric Sheptock, the Homeless Homeless Advocate. “They’ve had three-plus years to come up with a plan, and have almost nothing. This is a big fail.”

The one-page written plan shows that homeless folks staying at the 801 NY Ave shelter will be offered transportation at least six times per day, three morning and three evening trips, to and from the shelter in a loop that stops at interim service locations far from downtown.

The first stop is Dept. of Employment Services near the Benning Library. Located within blocks of each other, getting from one to the other requires crossing what is regarded as the most dangerous intersection in Ward 7 — Minnesota and Benning Avenues. The plan also makes no mention whether the Benning Library and DOES will have the resources to handle a significant number of additional users, many who have special needs as homeless folks.

Next stop is Adams Place Day Program the the far reaches of Ward 5. Adams Place is only open Monday through Friday. The center has only ten computers, but serves breakfast and lunch, and has case management services.

The last stop on the MLK Interim Services Plan, is merely that, a transit stop downtown at the Church of the Ephiany where travelers may wait outside in a courtyard for the next bus, and get some water and use the restroom.

Neil Albert, who is both the director of the Downtown BID and the Facilities Chair of the Board of Library Trustees has really let us all down, but especially our homeless friends,” said Robin Diener President of the MLK Library Friends.

Diener says Albert and the library, as well as the Mayor and Council Education Committee Chair David Grosso were put on notice about the impending potential for disarray in services going all the way back to 2014, when the MLK Friends held a conference, “Homelessness and Public Libraries,” at which then-new Library Director Richard Reyes-Gavilan spoke indicating that a good plan would be in place when the time came to close MLK.

The MLK Library Friends subsequently issued a report Sanctuary of Mind available on their with several recommendations including the need for a day center in a downtown location.

The Department of Human Services has been allocated the money and furnishings for a temporary downtown homeless day refuge, but have not gotten the complete assistance needed from the library, other city agencies, or downtown BID to secure an interim location. Seemingly unexplored opportunities are the DC-owned convention center or Franklin School (formerly homeless day center shut down by Mayor Fenty in 2008).

Friends of Washingtoniana – the fundamental archives of DC’s local historical documents — feel similarly disappointed by the DC Public Library’s plan for limited hours and multiple sites. Many researchers rely upon the Washingtoniana Division as an essential resource tool for earning a living. Director Reyes-Gavilan has rebuffed repeated requests by Washingtoniana users to form a working group to help plan the maximum access feasible at a single central location.


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