City Terminates Families Forward Contract
Flanked by Attorney General Peter Nickles and Department of Human Services Director Clarence Carter, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty announced at an 11 a.m. press conference that the city is terminating Families Forward's contract to run D.C. General's family shelter at the end of the month. Families Forward was notified by DHS this morning.
Allegations of terrible shelter conditions and mismanagement and inappropriate contact between staffers and residents first came to light on City Desk. There were also the deaths of two newborns which you can read about here and here and here.
For the remainder of the month, the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, which coordinates homeless services throughout the city, will directly manage D.C. General with the help of a few vetted Families Forward staffers. Beginning May 1, the Community Partnership will be charged with overseeing the shelter and will coordinate the transition as the city seeks a new provider.
Fenty provided a brief narrative of what led to the termination. It started with a letter from a resident known as P.H. The letter was forwarded to DHS, which investigated the allegations. DHS was able to substantiate many of them. Carter said his agency didn't just confirm previously reported instances of staffers having sex with employees, but uncovered two more. He described the allegations of sexual misconduct as possibly involving "coercion" or a "quid pro quo." In an interview, he said he was troubled that Families Forward didn't notify the city—he believes there was a real intent not to.
"The potential coercive nature of the allegations really curdles my milk," he said.
Two Families Forward employees were fired, as was a private security guard.
Fenty said the old days of D.C. government, when agencies weren't held responsible, are over. When the city does an investigation, he said, "we will also do so in a public way."
Nickles praised Carter, saying, "I'm very proud of Clarence Carter here. ... This was a model of how to treat serious allegations of impropriety." When DHS got the letter, Nickles said, Carter didn't put it "in a file cabinet." On March 24, he said, the Community Partnership established a hotline so shelter residents could report complaints. On March 29, Carter submitted a preliminary investigatory report to the AG's office; the same day, the findings were transferred to the office of the inspector general.
The OIG has since recommended the case be transferred to the D.C. Police Department for investigation. It's now in police hands.
Carter said: "We have a responsibility to act, and act decisively."
Nickles said of P.H.'s whistleblowing letter: "That's what you need. If there's an issue, tell us, we will do something about it."
Fenty also stated that Families Forward will not be considered for any city contracts again, that it will be put on the District's "ban" list. The nonprofit will also lose its contract to run a transitional housing complex in Columbia Heights.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery