City Desk

D.C. General Is Still Crowded, And May Stay That Way

dcgeneral5As of April 8, D.C. General's family shelter still housed 124 families which included 246 children. Last week, the shelter whistleblower was still residing there. Aaron McCormick, another resident who has spoken up about the shelter's poor conditions and mismanagement, is also still residing at the shelter.

There may be a good reason why residents like McCormick haven't come close to signing a lease or even touring a rental unit with his three children. The Department of Human Services does not have the funds to house all the families currently staying at the family shelter. One DHS document suggests the department may be able to house less than 50 percent of the 124 families by the end of the fiscal year.

But Fred Swan of DHS says that families residing at D.C. General may not even qualify for the supportive housing program.  "We don't use those resources to [just] house those families at D.C. General," he says.  "It's used to house our most vulnerable families. It's based on a survey that we do. We look at families that have been homeless the longest, and health concerns, other barriers like trauma, child-welfare involvement."

Swan's advice to those D.C. General residents like McCormick:  "They should be working with their case manager."

McCormick  says that there are only four to five case workers on site. He says the case worker assigned to him has yet to provide him with any possible housing options. Nor has he seen anyone from the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, which is supposed to take over the facility's management.

In the meantime, McCormick is trying to save money to move his family without DHS' assistance. He works as a project engineer, a job he started in late February. So far he's been able to save $1100. "I'm working on it," he says. "It's slow. But I'm working on it."

McCormick lives at the shelter with his son. He says his two daughters, ages one and two, live with a relative in Waldorf. "They're just too young," he explains; he didn't want his daughters to live at D.C. General. He is able to see his daughters once a month. He tries to talk to them every other day.

McCormick was able to see his daughters last week for 45 minutes. The relative drove them to his son's school in northwest. He played with his daughters on the swings. He jumped around with them, gave them kisses and hugs.

And then McCormick had to return with his son to D.C. General. He says the heat is still on in most floors. The shelter's version of air conditioning is a set of gigantic industrial fans strategically placed in various hallways. Only the second floor bedrooms have window units. In some areas at least, the heat is still on, McCormick says.

Thankfully, the heat never worked in his fifth-floor room. So he says it hasn't been too bad.

Swan says he has not heard about any air-conditioning problems at D.C. General. "It's something we will look into," he says.

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