Friday, November 08, 2013

Sometimes I fantasize about setting my house on fire. This is why.

523 - 525 Mellon Street SE
Despite a brief respite (after MUCH community outrage) it appears that construction has resumed at 523-525 Mellon Street again. That can only mean one thing.

Yet another group home. 

Sigh....

It looks like SOME (So Others Might Eat) is moving forward on their earlier plans to turn this former apartment complex into 51 units of transitional/low-income/affordable/independent housing (or whatever they are calling it this week). I suppose it is only fitting, Ward 7 just got their press release about SOME's new project at the Benning Road metro.

I did a Google search on the Mellon Street property and couldn't find any recent information on the status of this project (surprise, surprise) but I did find an undated project narrative for this site and a request for bids for construction from 2012. I highly recommend reading the project narrative, it is an eye opener I tell you.

This should be a park
If this is the case and and this project (subsidized by more low income tax credits) is moving forward as originally intended, I am struggling to understand why we even try to revitalize our Ward 8 neighborhoods in the first place. There seems to be so many forces at work to keep Ward 8 economically depressed and the unofficial social service dumping ground of the city. There are more low-income housing projects on Mellon street than there are houses. A few doors down from this project is an apartment building used as transitional housing and I suspect another one across the street. Heck, Mellon street is right across the street from a homeless shelter. Our parks are nothing more than waiting rooms for social service providers. In a vicious circle these are the scenes that nonprofits and DC agencies point to when they try to justify Ward 8 needing more social service providers and group homes.



Waiting on MLK Ave for the shelter to reopen
You can't swing a dead cat on Mellon, Newcomb or Oakwood Streets and not hit a group home, a shelter, a rehab, or a transitional housing facility so I don't understand what the point of Title XI is in the zoning code if no one ever enforces it. There are always multiple group homes and shelters within 500 feet of each other in Ward 8. How hard can it be to map out these locations?

I asked before and I will ask again, "why does my neighborhood have to suffer so yours can prosper?"

Sometimes I feel so helpless (and hopeless) in the face of so many efforts to keep my neighborhood as the designated dumping ground of the city's social service providers that I fantasize about taking a can of gasoline, lighting a match, and setting my house on fire. I really have felt that frustrated with our situation. I'm a strong person but even I have to admit that I have literally broken down in tears in the face of so many obstacles. A shame because there are so many things to love about my home, my neighborhood and my neighbors. I just wish that DC agencies and the city's social service providers and nonprofits would see more here than cheap land and an unending supply of consumers for their grant applications.

Sometimes I feel like my biggest mistake was believing the hype (and the press releases) all those years ago that Ward 8 was finally going to get a real shot at revitalization. Instead we watch Ward 8 home values continue to drop as west of the river home values rise. We still only have ONE grocery store (Giant) and  THREE sit-down restaurants (IHOP, Georgina's and Uniontown) in an entire ward of over 70,000 people. Do you know what is at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SE and Malcolm X Ave SE in my neighborhood? A Popeye's, a liquor store, and a check cashing company. Not exactly the monument befitting our nation's civil rights leaders.

Why is no one talking about that?! Why are there no panel discussions or tasks force to solve this problem?

There just seems to be so many forces constantly working against us; each one better funded and more connected than the last. It seems like no one is advocating for us, no one is looking out for our interest. I definetly don't see anyone in a position of power saying, "hold up, let this community get some traction economically before we saddle them with yet another transitional facility they can't support. Let's get these people some businesses, with jobs and amneties for their residents. Let's invest economically in Ward 8 because it is part of the city too!"

Lord knows I want to be optimistic but DC you are making it really, really hard.

Ghetto-fication is real. 





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9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nikki,

Are you a member of the Congress Heights Community Association? This group entails all of the ANC's throughout Congress Heights. 8C and 8E are the SMD's on the MLK and Alabama Ave corridors if I am not mistaken.

What is the Ward 8 council member doing about this?

I agree about the oversaturation of shelters and facilities. Its time to hold them accountable. Show the community some statistics on success stories. Are there any? Are they truly helping or is it just poverty pimps collecting checks from taxpayers?

It sounds like this SOME project will activate a boarded up building, but if the people they are trying to help are actually being held to some standards, then maybe it won't be as bad as say, the 801 East homeless shelter on the St Elizabeths East campus, which is a 'low-barrier' shelter that does not require the homeless and mentally ill to participate in any programs to try to better themselves.

Maybe we should focus on trying to get quality services that actually help people, the ones that WANT to be helped, instead of the status quo poverty pimps.

Anonymous said...

If I were to be honest I feel the exact same way. Just when I think it may finally be our turn something like this pops up and my family's hopes are dashed again.

The short answer is that we do not have effective representation. Other wards are more successful because their leadership knows their constituents aren't going to allow a group home on every single corner.

Anonymous said...

Walking away with the place ablaze in the background sounds way more exciting than the depression that sometimes sets in when I think about the state of the ward.

It's time for all this CHANGE to make its way to Ward 8.

BRB said...

Anonymous 11:41am: "Walking away with the place ablaze in the background sounds way more exciting than the depression that sometimes sets in when I think about the state of the ward."

Truer words have never been said.

I have to sigh too.

Whitney Hubbard said...

"Walking away with the place ablaze in the background sounds way more exciting than the depression that sometimes sets in when I think about the state of the ward."

Such a POWERFUL yet SAD statement. And how true it is...

The Advoc8te said...

@Whitney Hubbard

You can say that again sister!!!!!

Anonymous said...

"Sometimes I feel like my biggest mistake was believing the hype (and the press releases) all those years ago that Ward 8 was finally going to get a real shot at revitalization."

While over the course of your blogging, and especially of late, you have taken to task the complex and tangled web that has been woven over Ward 8, in many instances you have been a purveyor of your own hope. It is frustrating that the status quo hasn't changed for years.

DaReslnt1 said...

lmfaooooooooo@ these posts. But as 10 year resident if 20032, I totally agree with all of the comments BUT i have to also make light of a truth.

As a social service worker for the district, the Truth is that there are tons of social service programs in theCapitol Hill part of DC as well as other various "nice parts" of DC. And when I say tons, I mean just as many as there are in this part of SE DC. The difference between our part of town and theirs is that the residents do not allow the program participants to loiter in front of the buildings, they call the police in a heartbeat! Whereas we just suck our teeth, shake our heads and keep on walking.

Social service programs and their participants are not going to go away, what we need to do is let them know that they tomfoolery will not be tolerated. We need to attend our monthly PSA meetings and speak to the police about what we can do, what things can we call the police to deal with. We need to meet with these agency leaders and let them know what our expectations are of the participants and what behavior we will not tolerate (like the constant hanging out in front of the buildings which always turns into arguments, fighting and lots of trash outside)

I believe the hype is real and that things will change drastically once Homeland is finished and the workers start to move into the area. I plan on buying a house (I live in a condo) in this area and refuse to be run out and regret missing this boat!

The Advoc8te said...

@Anonymous: "While over the course of your blogging, and especially of late, you have taken to task the complex and tangled web that has been woven over Ward 8, in many instances you have been a purveyor of your own hope."

I agree with that. I have been thinking about that a lot lately and trying to reconcile the hope I feel for Ward 8 and the helplessness I am starting to feel more often as the change is slow -- if moving at all -- and I see signs of the same tomfoolery rearing its head yet again to take us back.

I've debated with myself if I should be as honest with these posts but the reality I think is that often times I am articulating a feeling someone else over here is feeling. So if I'm feeling frustrated then I am sure others are feeling the same. They just aren't blogging so maybe if I can publicly share my feelings it will hopefully encourage others to join the dialogue -- regardless of what side they fall on the discussion.

I just never want anyone to say "you never told me."