WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — The National Park Service will move forward with plans to close one of the largest homeless encampments in the District.
NPS posted flyers around McPherson Square stating its intention to enforce its “no-camping regulation” by April 12 of 2023. According to the notice, NPS will “clear the encampment at McPherson Square, starting with intensive social services engagement through the District of Columbia and its contracted social service providers.”
“Eventually we need to get back to the parks being open to everyone,” said Jeff Reinbold, NPS Superintendent of National Mall and Memorial Parks.
During a townhall meeting Wednesday, Reinbold explained that NPS stopped enforcing its no camping regulation during the pandemic. It’s now slowly beginning to enforce it again, with plans to impose the rule across all NPS spaces in D.C. by the end of 2023.
Reinbold said there is no plan to immediately shut down the park, but rather the agency will spend the next six months coordinating with partners to help house people.
“If we close the park, we’ve essentially just moved those people to another park, another sidewalk, another alley. That is not our goal in this.”
But, those living in the park are skeptical.
“No one is actually coming to help us. We’re being given the run around,” said Shelley Byars, who has been living in McPherson Square since June.
“It’s very frustrating,” she said. “And once we do have resources or someone helping us, they sweep us around and we have to start all over again.”
Byars said people should have the right to stay there.
“We’re not camping. We’re living here. There’s a big difference,” she said. “Federal land is public land which means people that don’t have a home have a right to stay there. Come help us. You want to call us out, come physically down here. Talk to each and every one of us here.”
According to Reinbold, roughly 50 people are living in McPherson Square.
He also stated the park has had relatively few issues in terms of public safety. However, he noted other smaller encampments, like the one at Scott Circle, have had an issue with drugs and violence. Reinbold said it’s likely NPS will step in soon to clear the Scott Circle camp quickly, and connect people here with the resources they need.