City Desk

Inside D.C. General: Former Staffers Talk Mold, Bathroom Blowjobs, and Mismanagement

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Inside D.C. General's family shelter, the staff had a term for rooms deemed uninhabitable: "off line." This designation was reserved for the worst of the worst—rooms without working heat or overrun by mold or peeling paint or infested with roaches. The off-line label extended even to rooms that no one thought to convert to living quarters, like utility closets.

Residents were forced to sleep on deflated air-mattresses in a cafeteria, bed down shoulder-to-shoulder in activity rooms and lay on their own coats in hallways (see picture above). But for a time at least, Families Forward Inc., the nonprofit charged with running the shelter, kept residents out of the off-line rooms. Until the February snowstorms hit and the already over-crowded shelter became overwhelmed.

According to two former staffers and two residents, the off-line rooms were eventually filled. In one case, a supply closet became a bedroom. Families Forward tried to pressure two pregnant women to share that particular closet. There were holes in the walls, recalls one staffer. "You could tell that the rats or mice had ate through it," the staffer says. "It was big enough to put a single bed and maybe a crib. It was a tad bigger than a walk-in closet."

One of the women refused, the staffer says. But the other pregnant woman took the room. Another staffer recalls that there weren't just holes but mold. Aaron McCormick, 42, a single father who resides at the shelter, says the space had been "storage for emergency food." He describes it as "more like a jail cell."

The supply closet conversion, and the moving of other residents into off-line rooms, was just another sign that Families Forward Inc. could not manage D.C. General. By then, residents had complained about the bad food, and the long waits to see case workers, and of course, the gaping holes in the walls:

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And the cramped sleeping arrangements in the activity rooms:

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On Feb. 9, a newborn died after being found unconscious in her shelter room. Two former Families Forward workers and one current employee say this wasn't the first newborn death at the shelter. The previous year, another newborn was found dead.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner says a baby died on May 2, 2009; it had the same last name as the baby identified by former staffers. The cause of death was determined as "Sudden unexpected death in infancy associated with sleeping in prone position and inappropriate bedding."

"It was kind of scary," says one former staffer. Both former staffers say that Families Forward Inc. did not provide grief counselors to shelter employees or residents. Management just gave them a warning: Do not talk about the dead baby.

"When we had the incident with the first baby that passed, the only thing they said was not to speak about it to anyone," the former staffer recalls. "They said 'that's your job' if you talk. No one knows how the first baby died. It was on the hush-hush."

When asked about the 2009 newborn death, Joi Buford, Families Forward's shelter programs manager, refused to comment.

The staffers point to another long-standing issue within the shelter. This year, security guards found that the unused sixth floor had been converted into something of a bachelor pad. On their rounds, according to current and former staffers, the guards discovered used condoms, condom wrappers, and blunt papers. Garbage bags had been spread out on the floor for "bedding."

Residents have complained about staff offering to trade extra blankets and juice for sexual favors. Families Forward Inc. recently fired several staffers for inappropriate contact with residents. Helen Hare, a spokesperson in Mayor Adrian Fenty's office, said that the Attorney General is looking into the allegations and refused further comment.

But current and former staffers say the sexual activities between staff and residents had been going on for some time. Staff and residents complained to management "plenty of times," says one former staffer.

"We had meetings about it," the former staffer says. "That was it. Even when they had names—names were given to them several times—nothing would ever be done. The thing that got me: We have cameras. But a lot of times they were breaking the cameras down, pulling the cameras down.”

At least one meeting took place last year to discuss an allegation that a staffer had gotten a resident pregnant. Says one former Families Forward employee:

"The staffer didn’t get fired. He was going around with a cellphone showing off pictures of the baby. He got her pregnant last year. I remember the rumors. It was last year, end of hypothermia. I remember the resident, she was on the fifth floor. She got pregnant. This resident had complained. After she got pregnant, they got her out there. I was very disappointed by it. Why is he still here? You had a meeting about it but you didn’t do anything to him about it. He wasn’t fired. We kept constantly getting complaints about this same guy with the residents."

One current D.C. General resident says that the employee's alleged harassment of residents was well known. As soon as she moved into the shelter, she says other residents warned her about him.

The two former staffers say that, along with the sex-for-blankets allegation, they heard complaints about co-workers trading cigarettes and small bills for blowjobs with female residents in the shelter bathrooms.

Again, one staffer says, management was aware of the problem but the activities continued. The staffer says they counseled a woman who had traded money for blowjobs. "She stated that she needed the money," the staffer says. "She seemed like she was doing what she had to do to survive."

The former Families Forward employee says that it was difficult to work at the shelter under CEO Ruby King-Gregory.

"I prayed that their contract be taken from them, that [the city] get someone who really cares, that really has the residents’ best interest at heart," the former employee says. "I would stop and talk to each and every resident. I could spend a whole day just comforting, listening to the residents, telling them that it will be all right. I took it home. I took it with me. I carried that burden with me. It broke my heart to know what they were going through, what they were dealing with. It was very disconcerting for me. And it starts with the head Ruby Gregory.”

Gregory did not return calls seeking comment.

Councilmember Tommy Wells has scheduled a hearing on D.C. General for Wednesday morning. Wells told City Desk last week that Families Forward's contract to run the shelter will be terminated.

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  • dcblackdaddy

    This is sad on the surface,but thier is always more to both sides of the scenario and D.C. General Shelter is run badly and the homeless misbehaved badly MOST of them to end up there. The contractor is ripping the city for money and one can imagine the nice house,nice car and clothes the CEO wallows in. Reminds you of the bad old days when PITTS Motor Hotel, Capital City Inn and all the other bloodsuckers from the 80's and 90's was living large and driving in Rolls Royce simply to provide shelter to the homeless.
    Why do we even pay for this service to outside contractors, oh I forgot someone has to make money and exploit and homeless peeps are glad not to pay rent.

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

    This place is out of control, it's like 'Animal House'!

  • Quantaviana

    Beats the streets, honey.

  • Quantaviana

    Aaron McCormick, 42, a single father who resides at the shelter, says the space had been "storage for emergency food." He describes it as "more like a jail cell."

    So a grown ass man with a fucking child is living in a Shelter? That nigga needs to be at McDonald's, Burger King, or any other place making minimum wage to SUPPORT HIS child! That ain't the city's problem!

    Lazy ass. What kind of lesson is he teaching his child?

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  • Manor

    Anyone know how to find out how much Families Forward was paid for running this place overall?

  • Quantaviana

    Manor, from the Washington Post 3 million dollars

  • Jason Cherkis

    WaPo reported that Families Forward Inc. had a $2.9 million contract. I'm not sure if that was just for D.C. General or D.C. General and the transitional apartments on Park Road that they manage as well.

    I'm a little tired of the blame-the-homeless comments. It's so cliche.

  • Manor

    Well like any population there is no such thing as "the homeless" in the singular and unified sense. Were we to survey to residents of DCG we'd probably find a third are mentally ill and/or generally unable to care for themselves, a third are good folk down on their luck who will strive to improve their lot, and the final third are the hustlers and fools who live off handouts and think its great and they're 100% entitled. I don't mind heaping abuse on that third group but the first two are not deserving. Now if there was only ways to focus resources appropriately instead of lumping them all together as "the homeless".

  • Ebony

    Why is it that everyone is blaiming Families Forward for the residents being cramped into the facility. Doest the city know that their is limited space, why wont they stop sending over more families untill they get more space. i dont think that families forward is to blaim

  • Manor

    Ebony, probably because of the mold and rats and mice and blowjobs and stuff like that.

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

    I wonder about the truth of some of these "FORMER STAFFERS", would you not think that If they cared as they claim then why did they not make a report before this all broke in the news!

  • noodlez

    WHO APPROVED OR SIGNED OFF ON THE CONTRACT TO FAMILIES FORWARD? WAS THE $2.9MIL FOR ONE YEAR OR FOR SERVICES OVER A PERIOD OF TIME?

    WHERE WAS THE OVERSIGHT? THERE WAS SO MANY FAILURES ON SO MANY LEVELS!

    @MANGY RE:COMMENT #11-OH ITS THE TRUTH. THEY MUST THINK THAT BECAUSE THEY NO LONGER WORK THERE THAT WOULD ABSOLVE THEM OF ANY CRIMES THAT WERE COMMITTED ON THEIR WATCH. THEY MUST DONT REALIZE THEY ARE ACCESSORIES. THEY STILL COULD BE CHARGED IF SOMEONE DETERMINES THEY WERE INVOLVED IN ANYKIND OF WAY. THEY THINK THEY ARE GETTING EVEN BY SNITCHIN.

    UNLIKE GILBERT ARENAS THESE FOLKS KNOWINGLY AND WILLFULLY COMMITTED CRIMES. SOMEONE SHOULD GET SOME JAIL TIME AND DC SHOULD GET SOME MONEY BACK FOR INADEQAUTE SERVICES.

  • Wendy Glenn

    It is a mark of the kind of society that we live in when we can treat the least of us, in the worst situation imaginable so shabbily.

    We as a society should be ashamed of our actions. Yes, we, it is all of our responsibility to look out for our fellow man. The city should be outraged. Morality and conscious alone should have you outraged.

    For the bloggers on this board to "blame" the resident who finds himself/herself in these situations is depraved.
    Remember, God sits high but he looks low, so beware of who you pursecute today; they might be the very individual to be in a position to help you tomorrow.

    Believe me Tommy Wells will get to the bottom of this and correct it. I disagree with him on some issues but overall he is a good man who will do the right thing.

  • Halle

    Granted Families Forward could have provided better care of the residents housed in the shelter however I'm almost positive the contract to run the shelter did not provide the actual cost it takes to operate a shelter. Additionally, Families Forward is not responsible for the families referred to the shelter. They are referred by the city to the shelter. The city does not have enough facilities to house the homeless; it's sad to see families warehoused. Something should be done and Tommy Wells' hearing should look not only at Families Forward but at the city's policy as it relates to the homeless.

  • http://DCShelter Aaron McCormick

    To the young girl who as to express her self with foul languge sounds as if she has no job and needs a man of her individual level of speaking from her mind is low. I Mr. McCormick, who had the the American dream in Southern Marylnad working as an project manage before being lay-out for more than a year, and now work for a construction company as an Project Manager again. What is your position in live for your below average individual that you are Ms.Quantavania of a name of a disadvantaage poor black lady as the name gives you away of any upper management position?

  • CDB

    Wendy, you are the depraved one who wants to see a permanent African-American underclass /slave class. Grow up and get an education.

    Proud people fend for themselves and make things work.

    anyone who has every had a drug-addicted friend knows that you HAVE TO let them hit rock bottom or else they will never change. Educate yourself in the science of mental health and addictions.

  • Sunshine

    It is unfortunate that a shelter is ran in this capacity especially since they have 2.9 million dollars of citizen tax dollars. There are children in the facility and this is very impressionable on them. The management is definitely the issue here. Obviously there has been a big problem with mismanagement of funds and alot of other things for that matter. It is actually disquisting to read that men abused their power and took advantage of a woman already in a bad situation. They should loss the contract immediately. Maybe the management would end up in a facility like they ran. Gross!!! This is why I am not scare to be a whistleblower. Employers always put fear in employees so they won't talk. What they did in the dark, came to the light. Can't hide the truth from being revealed.

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

    'Wendy Glenn', since you think that some of the people on this blog are such heartless souls then why don't you step-up to the plate! The way you talk we should just throw money at the problem, well guess what!, those days are long gone honey!

    I've done charity and volunteer work in this city for over 15 years ane there is one thing that I have learned, some people you need to help, like disabled, elderly and people with mental disorders. Then there are the slackers, the takers, people who will never know or want to know what work is, those people need to shape-up!

  • LifeTime

    This is obviously some mess, children on the damn floor. This is a sophisticate Plantation. Managed by the city assholes. I'm digusted to see the abuse and misuse of my tax money. I don't mind helping the abuse and the homeless children but some of the people are not deserving.

    Minimum wage won't help support his children he need two or three jobs. And someone to watch is kids for less then minimum wage. Someone that not a child molesters.

    DCBlackDaddy good job staying with the issue at hand!

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  • sedcdude

    "WHAT ARE NEGROES TO DO WHEN THEY ARE "CONTINUALLY" PAINTED AT THEIR WORST AND JUDGED BY THE "PUBLIC" AS THEY ARE PAINTED" - Charles Chestnutt, 1926

    2010.....Still very much relevant and true!

  • Ward 8 Rez

    Nice sedcdude!

  • ESS

    "anyone who has every had a drug-addicted friend knows that you HAVE TO let them hit rock bottom or else they will never change. Educate yourself in the science of mental health and addictions."

    I'm interested to get some "education" from you Mr. CDB. How exactly does a schizophrenic person hit rock bottom and magically get cured? You think that lady pushing the shopping cart muttering to herself is there because she wants to be and going to a couple NA meetings is all she needs?

    Educate YOURSELF that mental illness and addiction are not even remotely the same thing. It's a shame to our society that we turn mentally ill people out on the street and put them into shelters where families are staying. Reagan's legacy lives on.

  • Quantaviana

    Aaron,

    If that bullshit is true, then why are you living in a damn Shelter?

    You need to be better man and stop looking for a damn handout. Don't nobody owe you shit, you gump ass bastard.

  • Ward 6 Voter

    I can't believe any of these stories about the DC General Homeless Shelter are true. After all, DC General is located in Ward 6 and Tommy Wells, the Ward 6 council member, has responsibility for the council oversight of the city's homeless shelters through his chairmanship of the Council Committee on Human Services. Surely such a kind and decent man such as Wells wouldn't allow this to exist.

    But then again. This is the same Wells of the $.05 cent bag tax and supporter of your right to raise chickens in your backyard. When does he have time to worry about people with all these other complicated issues.

  • noodlez

    sedcdude I SEE YA CHAMP.

    SOMETIMES YOU GOTTA GET LITERAL WITH THESE FOLKS SO THAT THEY CAN UNDERSTAND.

  • DB

    If FF was hired to manage an ailing city-owned building, the structural condition of the building can't exactly be blamed on FF. Mold rats and roaches may even be prexisting conditions. General management, honoring contract terms--those are the criteria by which FF should be judged. The question is what did the contract ask of them, and if it didn't ask everything necessary, what gov't dippity-do signed off on it.

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  • Ebony

    @ Manor, Its an old building so im sure that its going to be rats and mold. and Families Forward does not control the mold they can only let DHS kno and wait for them to contact an contractor, and seccond the only reason they kno about the blowjobs is because Families Forward reported it, and the staffers there were accused were terminated. So again why is families forward being blaimed????

  • http://DCShelter Aaron McCormick

    To the young fool who is posting her blogs is some one who has nothing in life to live for so why are you so mad at your self for having so many bady daddy and you as a female is hart then that is your miss take and you need to learn to speak with bette language as you have a very hard time with communication I see, and it seems as if your comperhension is very low as well because it was all stated in my first blog. Ms. Quantaviana just go and have sex and more children like you been doing and if your a lady then move out of a real ladies' way.

  • Ebony

    Mr. McCormick, do u still live in the shelter?

  • Ebony

    If so, What is it that you as a Father, a grown man and a role modle to your son doing to better youself and to get out of the situation that you are in other than bitching.
    Families Forward Inc. is not going to lose their contract. But hypothetically speaking, if they were to lose the contract where are you going to be Thursday morning. In the shelter, corect?

  • Joyce Lee

    Wow. The bitterness on these comments is overwhelming. Could this be why the situation is so critical in DC/America? By that I mean, the blaming of those who unfortunately are in dire straits rather than creatively coming up with solutions to identify those with legitimate problems/issues. To suggest that someone "get a job at McDonald's" demonstrates a lack of understanding and intelligence that is appalling. The cost of living and child care in this area is astronomical; and I know of what I speak. I have an advanced degree and work for the government, and my husband and I still struggle paying back student loans and the $1000/month day-care bill for our infant son. So imagine those with no education, who've never seen anyone in their family attain even a GED, and who find themselves on the street! With roaches and mold endangering your baby. Whomever said that it beats the street obviously has never had to make that choice.

    Sad part is, many of the people who have said such ridiculous comments probably are the main ones in the Amen section of the church on Sunday. Let's not forget, even the Son of God was homeless (read your Bible, He said it out of His own mouth.) Most people are just one paycheck away from being up in one of these shelters...I pray to God that if that ever happens, someone will show you more compassion than you've dealt to others in the same situation.

    And, yes, I put my money and time towards those in similar situations. Do you?

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    Mold can be so damaging to a building. It is smart to have a mold expert over immediately if you locate a mold problem.

  • Amanda

    Reading these comments is enough to give anyone with common sense a headache. Please stop thinking a person is ONLY homeless because they want a free ride. I can't imagine waking up and saying gee looks like a good day to be homeless...ALL that is stated in this report is true. The Community for Partnership has taken over the facility until a new contract can be awarded and yes it is business as usual meaning there is still mold, roaches, rats, scabies, bad food, sexual favors, physical violence, and an unwillingness on management's behalf to help. I have video, photos, and written documents to validate these claims. I have already testified before City Council, etc, etc, Did I mention I will sit for the LSAT in a few months, have a 3.0 in Legal Studies and Business Administration, have been professionally employed for the past 15 years, and was just featured on Fox 5 News for receiving an award for my commitment to education, employment, and community service?…. things are not always what they seem.... Think about this, suppose your house burns down, or you are laid off, or fleeing a domestic violence situation, or are disable, or mentally ill, or a refuge, or more specifically in my case, forced to move from your home due to unsafe conditions? How would you feel being treated like you are less than nothing for a circumstance beyond your control? It is so easy so sit back and talk trash but at least stay on topic and focus on the issue at hand. If you pay taxes like I do than yes your money is being squandered so that people regardless of their socioeconomic status are forced to live in squalor. Yes there are some lazy, won't even take a bath if their last breathe depended on it people BUT don't classify all in the narrow box. Do you think the millionaires Madoff turned into maids are not in places like this. I lost my job and my home within the same month, and almost my mind but fortunately GOD has allowed me to be empowered by my experiences to help myself and OTHERS. I appreciate reading the insightful comments and the ones written as though they are deranged derelicts because you make my job oh so much easier….. Whether this is the homeless shelter or the Hamptons, people have a reasonable right to be treated with dignity and respect. Ask Tyler Perry how it felt to go from sleeping in his car to sleeping on the most comfortable bed all earning power on this page could not even afford…..

  • Amanda

    Last but not least, spell check is a free feature, in fact those words underlined in red are evident of this. Laughing my ass off at some off these people ranting and raving as if they are Rhodes Scholars and can barely recite the alphabet.

  • stl killa

    Yeah this is all sad. But what everyone is failing to realize is that all that happened is a part of human nature. No matter how hard we try we still have the same problems at some magnitude. If they put any of you people on this blog in charge i guaruntee the same problems would arise. This is America and has been for a while so stop acting like we didn't know, we can't all win. It could be worse, people in other countries would kill to have this as a problem. Please all of you learn spelling, grammar, & and puncuation before you try to sound so smart.

  • stl killa

    Yeah this is all sad. But what everyone is failing to realize is that all that happened is a part of human nature. No matter how hard we try we still have the same problems at some magnitude. If they put any of you people on this blog in charge i guaruntee the same problems would arise. This is America and has been for a while so stop acting like we didn't know, we can't all win. It could be worse, people in other countries would kill to have this as a problem. Please all of you learn spelling, grammar, & and puncuation before you try to sound so smart. To the last guy it's pronounced "Rogue Scholars" so dont be so quick to talk about others. WE ALL SUCK!

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