The city uses motels as overflow shelter for homeless families when the rest of its shelter space is full.
The city is terminating its relationship with a Northeast motel that it has used as overflow housing for families experiencing homelessness for the last five years. The District is planning to move all remaining families out of the Quality Inn motel on New York Ave by mid-July, according to the D.C. Department of Human Services.
Washington City Paper was the first to report the news.
The end of the relationship with Quality Inn is part of the city's plan to phase out the use of motels as overflow shelters by the end of 2020. After families are moved out of the Quality Inn, the city will only have families housed at one motel in the city—the Days Inn, also on New York Ave NE.
There are currently 56 families housed at the Quality Inn, and 97 families living at the Days Inn, per DHS.
"We will be implementing a number of strategies to close the hotel as a family shelter including, but not limited to, assisting families who are in the lease up pipe-line to move to permanent housing and transferring families to other shelters in the District's Continuum of Care where we have vacancies," said Noah Abraham, a deputy administrator at DHS, in a June 15 email obtained by WCP. Families will receive two weeks notice before they're moved out, Abraham says in the email.
The District has long used motels in the city as emergency overflow shelters for families without homes, particularly during hypothermia season. City Paper has reported that it costs the city roughly $3,000 per month to house a single family at a motel.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the city has also been using hotels to quarantine hundreds of people experiencing homelessness who either have the coronavirus or may have been exposed to it.
Last year, the city confirmed it was working to stop housing any families at motels by the end of 2020. It's more difficult for city agencies and outside organizations to provide needed services to unhoused families living in motels, and the residents of the motels have often said conditions are overly punitive and unhelpful as they look for housing.
D.C. has been reducing its use of the motels over the last several years—D.C. DHS Director Laura Zeilinger told DCist last year that, when she started at the department in 2015, the city's shelter system was overflowed to motels in Maryland. Three years ago, the city had hundreds of families housed at the now-closed D.C. General family shelter, and 734 more families in motels. The city has been steadily decreasing that number in the intervening years, and now there are 153 families in overflow shelter at motels.
Over the last year, D.C. has terminated its contracts with Hotel Arboretum and the Howard Johnson Hotel, DHS confirmed to DCist. It also used to have a contract with Motel 6, but no longer houses families there.
After closing D.C. General in 2018, the city has built a number of new shelters in different wards to replace the large, dilapidated family shelter. Most of those shelters are now open and housing families. The final shelter in Ward 1 is scheduled to be complete by the end of this year.
DHS still expects to be able to end its relationships with all motels as overflow housing by the end of the year, particularly if the Ward 1 shelter is finished on time. But the financial realities of the pandemic could increase homelessness in the city and strain capacity once more, per the agency.