City Desk

D.C. General: Weed, Stench, And Staff Come-Ons

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P.H., a resident of the shelter at D.C. General, had raised enough complaints and gotten nowhere. So yesterday morning she decided to e-mail Mayor Adrian Fenty about the living conditions there. The letter spanned six long, single-spaced paragraphs. She spared no detail.

"I wanted my voice to be heard," P.H. tells City Desk. "I could not wait to get up, get to the library at 9:30 a.m. to press that send button. It felt like a relief....I was sitting outside the library before it opened."

P.H., 26, wrote that she and her three daughters moved into D.C. General on Jan. 27. They were placed in a cafeteria with 17 other families where they slept on air mattresses that wouldn't properly inflate. "At night my daughters and I had to sleep very close to each other to stay warm, because the room was so frigid," P.H. wrote.

P.H.  says the cafeteria would get so cold at night, she'd sometimes go outside and warm her family in their car. They'd bundle up, crank the heat for an hour or two, then go back to their wilting air mattresses. In the car, there was a sense of peace. Not so, the cafeteria.

Inside the cafeteria-turned-barracks, P.H. says the smell was terrible. "It was like a stench that I had never smelled in my life," P.H.  says. Staff did not provided adequate trash cans or trash pickup, she says. Sometimes, dirty diapers were left around the room.

In a room adjacent to the cafeteria, people smoked weed, according to P.H. and another resident, Patrice Jackson. In the morning, men, women, and children all had to get dressed in front of each other. Some tried to put up a trash bag over the cafeteria door's window as a makeshift curtain. But D.C. General's staff tore it down. "One of the monitors said we didn't deserve any privacy," Jackson, 25, says. "So they kept pulling down the plastic."

Like the Richbows, P.H. says that one of her daughters got sick from the shelter's food and had to be taken to the hospital. She wrote Fenty: "I had to rush my daughter to the hospital in the middle of the night, because she had gotten food poisoning from the dinner that had been served."

So what did the D.C. General staff actually do? P.H. writes that they had sex with the residents:

"A few of the staff members exchange sex for favors with the female homeless residents. A resident, whom I had become very close with, was caught by a staff member, having sexual intercourse with another male staff member in the middle of the night, in the cafeteria at the shelter facility."

P.H. says she herself was propositioned by a staff member. "One of the staff members asked me if I wanted to go out," she says. The staffer said: "If you like, you can spend the weekend at my apartment."

Jackson says she was propositioned many times by shelter staff but rebuffed the offers. "It was staff that was trying. 'Come on, let's go to my house,'" Jackson recalls them saying. "They'll gesture you to come to the back of the closet with them. I'm like, 'No I don't do stuff like that.'"

Sometimes, the staff tried to entice Jackson with "special favors," like offering an extra blanket.

Jackson says that when she'd ask for basic things like an extra blanket or juice for her child, the male staff would counter with a pick-up line: "What you going to give me?"

P.H. wrote that she and her family had serious needs that were ignored by D.C. General staff:

"My eldest daughter and I have been diagnosed with a mental illness, and the living arrangements, and the treatment given by the staff at D.C. General, makes our lives extremely stressful, and uncomfortable. My daughters and I spent numerous years in an abusive household, both physically, and sexually. My family, and I have numerous everyday life challenges, and we try to maintain a positive attitude....Living at the Families Forward Shelter reminds us of the abusive home that we once lived in with my husband."

Calls to Families Forward, the group in charge of the shelter, have not been returned. P.H.  and Jackson are still living at D.C. General.

Today, Fenty wrote P.H. back:

"Thank you for writing me. I appreciate your comments and care about your concerns. This acknowledgement is in reference to your recent correspondence. Please allow 5-10 business days for a response.

Your request has been forwarded to Mr. Jim Tufa, my point-of-contact at the Department of Human Services. Please feel free to contact that office at (202) 671-4200 or mailto:jim.tufa@dc.gov regarding the status of your request. Your correspondence has been assigned the following EOM tracking number: 883892.

In the interim, please be sure to visit the DC government web site at www.dc.gov for all current updates and lists of provided services in the District of Columbia. For immediate assistance, I urge you to contact my City-wide Call Center by dialing 311, or 202-727-1000 if you live outside of the District of Columbia.

For future comments and concerns, please email me at mayor@dc.gov.

Sincerely,

Adrian M. Fenty, Mayor"

File photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • http://rickmangus@aol.com Rick Mangus

    Clean it up or close it down, like I said before the city would be better off funding the animial shelter, at lease dogs and cats know how to take care and protect there young!

  • Not a Poverty Pimp

    What the hell...C'mon, WCP. Please tell us that the office of the man who would be DC Mayor (again?) didn't really allow this auto-response to go to this distressed DC resident? Everyone who reads this article should get on their knees and pray to whatever/whoever they hold most high...and thank them that they are not living in DC General right now. They also need to pray that all of those homeless families get what they need to become self-sufficient, DC tax-payers who can better contribute to the system that is failing them now.

  • proballdc

    Fenty shut down D.C. Village, a bad, but much better residential facility only to place these families in a Hurricane Katrina Superdome like hell on the promise of placing them in affordable "apartment" living quarters. What ever happened to "do no harm" in public service. This is the very type of housing conditions that our real mayor Peter Nickles was suing property owners over. Rick Mangus, I disagree, the city treats abandoned animals much better than this. I couldn't imagine forcing women and children to dress and undress in front of strange men. This place deprives these people of even BASIC diginity.

    Important question...Why does director of Human Services still have a job?

    I presume that because this population of people are not "likely" voters, the Mayor feels that an auto-reply message was good enough.

    All of this Mayor's human parts are D-E-A-D.

  • LSmith

    This brings tears to my eyes. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect.

  • http://rickmangus@aol.com Rick Mangus

    'LSmith', respect is something that you earn, it should not handed out like candy, from what I have read and seen a majority of these people have not passed the earning phase!

  • DC Hoodrat

    It takes a desperate DC nigga to wanna fuck homeless/shelter/half-washed pussy.

  • tired

    Rick Mangus you are not a human being. What freaking planet are you from? How dare you say these people deserve this. Oh I forgot your republican talking points say alot. You are the lowest from of life I have ever encountered. I hope you never have to be homeless.

  • http://rickmangus@aol.com Rick Mangus

    'tired', sell you're liberal bull shit to people who care, because no one is buying it here or anywhere else as you and the democrats will find out in November, DUMB ASS!

  • http://rickmangus@aol.com Rick Mangus

    By the way DUMB ASS when was the last time that you did any volunteer work?

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com Jason Cherkis

    Rick: Do you even live in D.C.?

  • Sally

    Can Cherkis somehow make a connection between DC General and Pershing Park? If so, then we're in for years of posts on the issue.

  • proballdc

    It is not a liberal or conservative prerogative to take care of one's fellow man who is poor and destitute. It is a Christian principle that all are called to do. Both liberals ad conservatives claim to be led by the teachings of Christ. Christian action is just not a principal that many who claim the man engage in.

    At issue here is that Fenty closed D.C. Village, a residential facility, on the promise of transferring those residents to more permanent affordable family homes. However, what he has done, is moved them to this inhumane Katrina Superdome-like warehouse where illegal drug use, physical abuse and indignity rules the day and night.

    Catholic charities are overwhelmingly conservative. Their services are dedicated to the plight of the poor. It doesn't make one conservative to attack the poor it only makes one godless.

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  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com Jason Cherkis

    Sally: Thanks for posting that comment. Hilarious. I have no doubt that is the fear of my editors.

  • Jeremy

    Thanks for following this issue. I was at the meeting a couple years ago when city reps promised that no more than 100 families would be housed here, and then only temporarily. They also promised that conditions would be humane. Everyone in attendance -- mostly nearby residents -- assumed they were lying and that for all of Tommy Wells grandstanding that evening, the situation would ultimately become a mess. Surprise.

    Does the city have any plan at all to fix this? Or are Fenty, Wells, et. al just hoping that voters and donors won't notice or care?

  • Phil

    Rick Mangus's response is what is to be expected when people decide that they are better than others and that God can get lost.
    Volunteered?
    Last Christmas.

  • noodlez

    YALL MUTHA FUCKERS ARE SICK!

    HER STORY MAYBE STRECHED A BIT BUT THE FACT REMAINS THAT THE PLACE IS DEPLORABLE. FENTY IS BIDING HIS TIME FOR THE PLACE TO BE SHUT DOWN AT THE END OF THE MONTH.

    MR CHERKIS WHY DONT YOU CONTACT CNN OR MSNBC SO IT CAN GET SOME NATIONAL COVERAGE. ILL BET HIS PUNK ASS WILL DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT THEN!

  • http://rickmangus@aol.com Rick Mangus

    'Jason Cherkis', I live near 15th and Q, NW and 'Phil', I don't think that I am better than other people, but some people are takers and will continue to be takers.

  • noodlez

    @RICK "MAN IN MY GUT" MANGUS-SLIM YOU REALLY NEED TO SCALE BACK A BIT.

    STOP BEING MAD AT THE WORLD BECAUSE YOU KEEP PICKING UP WHITE SHIT OFF THE FLOOR AND PUTTING IT IN YOUR STEM.

    THE VELICOFF AINT HELPIN EITHER.

  • Autumn

    If conditions are really as bad as this at the shelter, I would rather stay on the streets or leave DC and go find another shelter somewhere else.

    While I truly do feel for many of these people, I also feel as though there is not enough emphasis on personal responsibility. When Ms. Jackson went to the library to send her letter - did she also look for a job? Does she have a resume and does she look for work?

    A shelter should be a temporary refuge to get people off the streets and back on their feet. What is Ms. Jackson doing to get back on her feet? It's been nearly 2 months since she and her daughters moved in and what has Ms. Jackson done in that time. I'm not being accusatory necessarily, but the article does not address any other actions she it taking to improve her situation.

    I did a quick google search and found this site: http://does.dc.gov/does/cwp/view,a,1232,q,637871.asp

    It shows that there are free employment training opportunities for unemployed people in Washington DC.

    My mother did very simple work for many years until the company finally folded. When she tried to find work she was deemed "unemployable" by the state of New York because she had no transferable skills.

    She took advantage of the training programs provided by the State and has had a career in medical billing for more than 12 years. She earns nearly $50,000 per year now plus benefits and has only a high school education.

    It can be done, but it takes effort. While Ms. Jackson should not suffer deplorable conditions while at the shelter, I know it would certainly motivate me to do something to get out of there. I wouldn't wait for someone else (Fenty) to come and take care of me - and that's not just because I have no faith in him! It's time to take care of yourself and your daughters.

  • DC Hoodrat

    Autumn,

    It was Ms. Hawk, but I'll take bets AGAINST her actually looking for a job or doing ANYTHING productive while she was at the library.

    She couldn't even pick up trash or a shitty diaper where she and her daughters were sleeping, so you know she's just that damn trife.

  • D

    I don't think people should be criticized for refusing to keep the residents of DC General in self-imposed slavery.

    I don't think shelters should exist at all. I think these people should be trained to own their own companies and work on their own. For many women with poor educations in this shelter they could end up as domestics, cleaning someone's house and sleeping in a basement apartment. The question we need to ask ourselves as a society is why that is worse than living in a shelter?

  • Autumn

    DC Hoodrat:

    Thanks for the correction, I appreciate it. I think I got too fired up to double check! :)

    I don't mean to come across as harsh or unsympathetic, but it just saddens me that in this country there is an expectation that someone else will take care of me and mine. Why do people feel they don't need to work hard anymore?

  • Wendy Glenn

    Can we ALL remember that these people are human beings and they deserve what all humans being deserve and that is to be treated with respect and dignity. No one deserves to be made to dress or undress in front of anyone this is not Nazi occupied Germany, nor are we still slaves that had no choice over the raping and moleting of our bodies.

    To have anyone living in these conditions is inhumane.

  • DC Hoodrat

    Autumn,

    Because politically correct intellectuals have made a killing off of the destructive art of positive affirmation - of negative behavior.

    What person, shelter inhabitant or not, enjoys the smell of fresh baby shit? Complaining about trash pick-up, and filthy conditions - instead of being grateful for not having to be on the street and offering to pitch in an clean up are the norm in DC.

    For the record, any staff person who had sex with a shelter resident should be fired... and if the sex was under coercion - charged with sexual battery or rape. That's the ONLY thing wrong with this story... The rest just demonstrates how self-absorbed and fucked up many DC General families are.

  • DC Hoodrat

    Wendy,

    When those people get some dignity and self respect. You can get up and got to a lbrary to fire off an email begging for housing, but you can't look for a job with that same level of enthusiasm?

  • tired

    Rick , why so hostile you are the worst teabagger in DC. Why are you so angry? Why in the hell didn't you get this angry when your president put us in 2 wars and put the economy in the tank. And deregulated everything so don't get pissed at us because you suffer from a superiority complex. Get over yourself you are no better then anyone else. Take that stuff where it belongs not on the people who are living in a shelter, that is not fit for animals. DO YOU ACTUALLY THINK WE WOULD PUT ANOTHER REPUBLICAN IN OFFICE AFTER WHAT THEY HAVE DONE TO US THINK AGAIN.

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  • Wendy Glenn

    Families Forward CEO Ruby King-Gregory responded with her own letter to Fenty today. In the letter, she admits:

    "Perhaps most sickening, it is true that there have been alleged inappropriate contact between staff and the female residents. However, know that when Families Forward was made aware of this concern, an investigation was conducted and the staff persons in question were swiftly terminated."

    King-Gregory also affirms that "some of the concerns" raised by Hawk are indeed true. She does not address the newborn that died at the shelter on Feb. 9.

  • Wendy Glenn

    @DC Hoodrat; There are 21.1% of returning VETS being cast in a state of unemployment and homelessness due to the policies put in place by the Bush Administration, so I am saying this to say that we are ALL one paycheck, unemployment check, bank foreclosure, developer deal gone wrong away from being in a state of homelessness ourselves. So before you look down your nose at someone who finds themselves in a situation that is subhuman remember, "but for the grace of god, go you or I."

    I have been unemployed since October 9, 2009 and on a daily basis for 12-16 hours per day, I apply for jobs. I beat the streets, I bog down the email and job message boards and job sites and to no avail. I would have had a job if this city was not steeped in "who you know, rather than who is the best candidate." You see, I don't know or owe anyone anything and I don't have friends in high enough places to have someone "place" me in a cushy job. So I thank god daily that I am not where these people are but I don't look down on them because I was raised by Christian parents who always taught me to love thy neighbor as myself, and show compassion to those less fortunate.

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  • Stephen

    Get Fenty out of office. He is just like a redneck racist. He does not like blackpeople and treats us as if he is a racist southern white. Please people of DC if you have any compassion vote this man out of office. he is setting up back 40 years.

  • http://robin.hall2010@yahoo.com Robin

    D.C. General Family's Forward, Community of Hope Family Shelter have many of the same issues: the monitors, security guards and other professionals at these facilities has raped many of the residents, wrote false reports on them to say they have serious mental issues, locked up, sent to be assessed mentally, when they stand up for their rights. The monitors use some of the residents to write false reports on decent residents and staff to get rid of them to keep the abuses covered up and not stand up for their rights. Find a sponsor who will ensure the residents are given quality care, so that they can become productive person who desire a better life and can move forward.

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