Our Meeting With Mayor Adrian Fenty
On Monday, August 25th, 4 homeless men met with the mayor and his director of the Dept. Human Services, Clarence Carter. They were myself, Skip Hawkins, Orlando Smith and D'juan Bean. The mayor had 2 others with him who were obviously not highly influential people. They both sat against the wall, while the 6 of us sat at the board room table.
I had been informed prior to the meeting that the mayor might play with his cell phone or blackberry as a show of disinterest in the meeting. He actually didn't do that. We kept him engaged throughout the 40 minute meeting. Nonetheless, while the meeting had respectful overtones, what the mayor had to say was quite unpleasant.
We reminded him of his campaign promise to keep Franklin open as a shelter and the fact that over 80 homeless people attended a meeting that was put together by his transition team. That was a feat getting that many homeless people to attend a meeting. They had a lot of faith in Mayor-elect Fenty. I told him that many people are upset with him, due to his broken campaign promises. all he could say was,"Well..........".
We explained that the homeless feel a need to remain in the downtown area and near public transportation. We explained that, since his housing plan is behind schedule, he should also postpone the shelter closure. Mayor Fenty explained that the closure of Franklin School was supposed to happen last year. He maintains that, if we keep putting it off, the shelter closure will never happen. However, he doesn't mind putting off his housing plan that he publicized in April of this year and juxtaposed with the shelter closure. In essence, he juxtaposed them in order to get the go-ahead and then separated them. That amounts to a bait and switch. When the homeless shelter is closed, many homeless men will have nowhere to go.
We also mentioned the fact that, by them having nowhere to go, many of the homeless will end up sleeping in the park and then going to jail for it. We reminded him of how neither he nor DC government wanted the jail to serve as a makeshift homeless shelter. Mayor Fenty's response was,"The city has to do what the city has to do". Take that for what you will.
A highlight of the meeting was the fact that we didn't give Clarence much of an opportunity to speak in his round-about way. he said very little, as we interrupted him several times.
We also mentioned the idea of creating employment opportunities and drug programs at Franklin, possibly only on a temporary basis. Mayor Fenty seemed rather open to the idea of finding employment for the several of us who were at the meeting. We were careful not to allow ourselves to be co-opted.
I mentioned the fact that the National Park Service wants to upgrade Franklin and McPherson Parks, having already gotten the fountain working in Franklin Park, and they don't want a homeless shelter right across the road from a tourist attraction. The mayor said rather sarcastically,"The National Park Service can't upgrade anything. They can't upgrade a single water fountain". I wasn't looking for an honest admission, just to let him know that I know -- to scare him with my ability to find out the truth.
In spite of his failure to admit to the truth, I continued with that train of thought by explaining that homeless people will quite readily walk up to 2 miles. Many Franklin residents eat at S.O.M.E. (So Others Might Eat) which is at 71 O Street, NW. Many CCNV residents walk to McPherson Park to eat. In either case,it is about 2 miles. Therefore, moving the shelter won't keep the homeless out of the park.
These are just a few of the things that were said in the meeting. However, they should give you a window into the mind of the mayor. He is being quite unreasonable. He was rather nonchalant about his broken promises and the fact that many of his constituents are highly upset with his performance. He's dug his heels in and refuses to budge, in spite of what advice he receives. In the words of Dr. Frankenstein,"we've created a monster". He'll be a one-time mayor.