By Matthew Koehler

Mayor Bowser, Councilmembers Charles Allen and Anita Bonds, along with other community leaders cut the ribbon in The Aya’s dining room.
Families are expected to begin arriving in March; Courtesy of Perry Klein

On Friday, Feb. 21, Mayor Bowser, Councilmembers Charles Allen and Anita Bonds, along with several other department heads cut the ribbon in front of a packed house at The Aya, Ward 6’s new short-term family housing.

The speakers gave credit to the ANC, the community working group and neighbors at Capital Park Condominium that constructively worked to shape the project. Tours of the facility were given after the ceremony. 

There is no outdoor play area. Instead, each floor has a room designated as a children’s play area, which is open to the outside with a mesh wall and indoor-outdoor rubber carpeting. Each family has access only to the floor where they are living. Smaller families share a bathroom with each other. The Unity Health Clinic will be downstairs in the basement, but won’t be ready until the Fall. 

Unity has been using temporary space at Joy Evans, 555 L St. SE, but they need to close at that location on May 15 due to reconstruction at the site, so there will not be a health facility available to public housing in Southwest for several months. 

Still, many pointed out that closing DC General, in favor of smaller, “more dignified” housing is a step in the right direction. The opening of The Aya follows on the heels of other short-term housing that opened in Wards 4, 5, 7, 8, and the 2019 July groundbreaking of another project in Ward 1. 

“What it really came down to,” said Council Member Allen, “is Southwest recognizing that families that are experiencing homelessness, they’re not other, they are our neighbors. They are our families. When we do this, and do it right, we’re taking care of one another.”

Perry Klein contributed to this article.

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