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Community for Creative Non-Violence could close, sparking debate

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WASHINGTON (WJLA) - There is growing fear in Northwest Washington. A potential real estate deal could send hundreds of people out onto the streets. It's prompting a debate over the need for tax revenue versus the needs of people.

The Community for Creative Non-Violence shelter sits on nearly a square block of prime real estate downtown. It houses some 1,300 homeless people, many who sit out front and are now alarmed that the city’s talking about what to do with the space. Almost every option includes closing it down.

“That’s wrong,” Kimberly Anthony says. “That’s wrong for people that are homeless.”

Members of the Task Force met Thursday, representing interests from the downtown business community that would like tax-generating development to homeless people advocates. Council member Jim Graham is chair.

“I’m not interested in having a condo on this site," he says. “I’m interested in vastly improved homeless services on this site.”

The shelter is the result of an agreement between the late activist Mitch Snyder and the late President Ronald Reagan, who paid to restore the shelter only after Snyder all but starved himself on the eve of the 1984 election, when Reagan gave in.

A covenant said the space  had to be used for a homeless facility for the next 30 years, and those 30 years are almost up.

"The building's going to be torn down, that's a given," says Eric Sheptock. "It's old. It's falling apart."

Homeless advocates like Sheptock, who lives at the shelter, say the status quo won’t work, but he’s worried.

“The city has shown patterns of gentrifying the poor and the homeless and we want to ensure that that doesn’t happen.”

Sheptock's hope is for many affordable apartments in a high rise on the space. The Task Force’s report to the city is due in six months.

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