Why County Board Has to Fleece the Taxpayers to House the Homeless

County staff have described as “within budget estimates” the $6.6 million contract to be awarded for the construction of the new year-round homeless shelter. While that’s peanuts compared with some other County sponsored boondoggles like the Pike Trolley and the Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center, it might be more accurate to describe the outlay as excessive.

Add to the construction cost, the Thomas Building purchase price of $27.1 million. This equates to about $4 million for each of the building’s seven floors, two of which will house the Homeless Services Center (HSC). Add to that another $2.3 million for design, furnishings and equipment, and the total cost for a year round facility housing 50 people comes to $6.6 million + $8 million + $2.3 million = $16.9 million or $338,000 per bed. This is exorbitant when you consider that a low-end motel room costs in the range of $50,000 to $75,000 to build.

When I raised a similar concern a year ago, Jay Fisette objected saying that costs aren’t comparable in different locales. Yet most people would agree that the District of Columbia is a comparable jurisdiction. In 2012 it constructed a new women’s homeless shelter occupying 23,000 square feet at 611 N St. NW to house 50 people for $9.8 million, or $7 million less than what County Board approved for a comparable facility.


Also the cost of the shelter doesn’t take into account the $2.5 million annual operating budget for the facility.

Folks, I’m not objecting to a year round homeless shelter. The other night I met a homeless man panhandling at Courthouse Metro, who lost his job as a defense contractor only a few short months ago and is now staying at the ASPAN winter shelter.

I’m a federal contractor myself, and I know what it’s like to get bounced from job to job. What I am objecting to is the County’s propensity to undertake projects without doing the cost benefit analyses needed to get the best value for dollar spent.

No. I am not against housing the homeless. Instead I want to elect someone to County Board who will promote fiscal responsibility, including hiring an internal auditor to perform a cost benefit analysis on every major County capital outlay. The candidate I have in mind is Mr. John Vihstadt. Please give him your vote on April 8.

One comment on “Why County Board Has to Fleece the Taxpayers to House the Homeless

  1. March 1, 2014 Larry Petkov

    Very good analysis. Saving money on cost overrun projects like this can only create more housing for the homeless. It is vital to spend the money wisely on such important matters.


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