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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Temporary homeless shelter takes over vacant Macy's building in Landmark Mall

The children's play area in the Carpenter's Shelter in Landmark Mall.
The old Macy’s store in Landmark Mall – once filled with racks of dresses, cashier stations, and mannequins – has been transformed into a temporary homeless shelter. One vestige of the old Macy’s remains: the dingy carpet has not been replaced.

The Howard Hughes Co., which is planning a town center on the now-closed Landmark Mall site, agreed to let the Carpenter’s Shelter use the top floor of Macy’s while its building in Alexandria is being replaced with a much larger facility.
The dining area.
Using a mall for a temporary shelter is just one of many ways abandoned shopping malls across the country are being repurposed as large retail spaces are no longer in demand. Landmark is also being used temporarily as a location for the production of the movie “Wonder Woman 1984.” (There is tight security, so anyone trying to get a peek won’t be rewarded.)

The temporary Carpenter’s Shelter opened in June. It provides housing for about two dozen men, a dozen women, and six families. More people will be served during the winter months through a hypothermia program. There’s also a day shelter, called David’s Place, where homeless people staying outdoors can come in to do their laundry, take a shower, check the internet, and make phone calls.

A flex room provides extra space if needed.
The Carpenter’s Shelter expects to stay at Landmark until the end of 2019, when its new building will be completed, says Executive Director Shannon Steene. The shelter’s two-story center on N. Henry Street is being razed to make way for a seven-story building with underground parking and 97 units of affordable housing, as well as a shelter for the homeless.

“Howard Hughes has been remarkably supportive of Carpenter’s Shelter,” says Steene. “They made an effort to understand what we’re all about. They are solid, solid partners.”

The laundry room.
Howard Hughes is not charging the Carpenter’s Shelter rent. The shelter is, however, responsible for utilities and maintaining the common areas.

The company had originally planned to redevelop the central part of the mall in between Macy’s and Sears, but it has since expanded the project after acquiring the Macy’s building last year. That sent the planners back to the drawing board, resulting in more delays on a project initially proposed in 2012.

Sears remains open, at least for the time being. Sears Holdings, the parent company of Sears and Kmart, announced plans this month to close 100 unprofitable stores; no stores in Northern Virginia are on the list. The Landmark Sears is owned by Seritage Growth Properties and leased to Sears Holdings.

The lounge for adults.
Once the Carpenter’s Shelter got approval to relocate temporarily to the Macy’s building, it created bedrooms, new bathrooms with showers, lounge areas, a small clinic, and offices for staff and volunteers.

“Shelter residents love the bathrooms,” Steene says. “Their only complaint is the lack of natural light,” as the store doesn’t have windows.

There are separate rooms with bunk beds for single men and women. There’s also a flex room that could be used for trans people or a family that needs emergency shelter in the winter.

An open area for classes and other activities.
Each family has its own room. There are currently about 15 children living at the shelter, most of them preschoolers. School-age children are bused to their home school by the City of Alexandria school district.

Single people stay an average of two months at the shelter, while shelter staff and volunteers help them get back on their feet. Families tend to stay three months.

The shelter does not have a kitchen, as it wasn’t worth going through the extensive permitting process for a temporary facility, Steene says. Instead, there’s a warming station for heating food donated by volunteers. Residents are served lunch and dinner daily, plus a continental breakfast on weekdays and a full breakfast on weekends.

Among the activities at the center: children’s playtime, parenting classes, financial education, job coaching, and a weekly yoga class led by a volunteer.

Staff includes an employment navigator, case worker, and housing locator. And on many days, there's another fixture at the shelter – Steene’s dog, Bobo.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like an excellent program. I'm glad that that run-down building is being used so well.