City Desk

D.C. General’s Family Shelter Back At Capacity

The emergency family shelter at D.C. General is back at full capacity. In March, the District had faced massive overcrowding at the shelter in which mothers and children slept on hallway floors and in a cafeteria. At one point, the shelter reached 200 families. According to internal e-mails, the Department of Human Services (DHS) began moving families into housing units after it faced the threat of a lawsuit by the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless.

The District moved dozens of families out of D.C. General. Now, it appears the city had run out of options for the families residing at the abandoned hospital. On May 31, the shelter had 134 families and 246 children. The listed capacity was set at 135 families. The residents occupy three floors.

"After the push to house families back in March which thankfully and wonderfully resulted in a number of families securing a permanent place to live, unfortunately those efforts have slowed down," says Patricia Mullahy Fugere, the legal clinic's executive director. "And there are fewer permanent and transitional housing resources available now. We're not seeing people moving through the shelter system."


Another thing that isn't moving through the system: cool air. Aaron McCormick and his young son have been stuck at D.C. General for months. He says that the air conditioning system doesn't work on the fifth floor where his family resides. "So myself and 30 other families [are] in extreme heat," he says. "Industrial fans not doing anything." He adds that his son has gotten nose bleeds due to the heat. He also describes flea problems, trash left in piles, and still indifferent case management.

"We got flees galore," McCormick says.


But the big problem is the likelihood that McCormick and a majority of his fellow residents will be staying at D.C. General for the summer. He says that residents were informed at a recent meeting that it would take another three to four months for DHS to find transitional or subsidized housing for each family.

DHS' Fred Swan denies that any such timetable had been given to D.C. General residents. "As circumstances and eligibility for programs are different for each family, as a general rule we do not give specific time frames for placement," Swan writes in an e-mail to City Desk. "Time frames for placement are contingent upon each family's circumstances, resources and eligibility for programs.  Additionally, placement is also contingent upon availability of placements (i.e., family turnover in programs), overall demand and the efforts made by families to work on goals in their case/service plan."

Swan goes on to state that the demand for shelter beds remain high: "The District continues to experience a heavy demand for shelter for families.The DCG Family shelter has been at or near its capacity of 135 families since the winter season. DHS has no plans to exceed the shelter’s maximum capacity. Rather we are working to meet the housing needs of families both currently in the shelter system and those who are applying for shelter with the housing programs available to us, with a goal of moving families to stable housing as quickly as possible."

As of the end of March, there were 292 families on a District waiting list for services. Swan and Co. admit that the shelters for families are full. Families just have to wait until there's a vacancy at D.C. General.

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  • downtown rez

    No AC? Fleas? Sleeping on the floor? Piles of trash?
    Sounds like my first apartment. Except I had to pay for that.

  • Jason Cherkis

    I can always count on D.C.'s not-so-hidden conservative bullshit to appear in the comments.

  • Rick Mangus

    Well guess what Jason this city has tried it your stupid liberal way for over forty years and what progress has it made, I'll tell you NOTHING! I as a TAX PAYER in this city is sick and tired of the flipped liberal approach to city issues! THE DAYS OF THROWING CASH AT THE PROBLEM ARE OVER!, GET USE TO IT!

    PS, If you don't like other people's opinion then get another job!

  • Jason Cherkis

    I'm fine with other people's opinions. Here's one of my own: you're waste of comment space.

  • Rick Mangus

    Jason that my RIGHT to give my opinion, it's your DUTY as a journalist to be objective in reporting and not some bloviating asshole who's working a dead end job writing a dead end column!

  • Jason Cherkis

    Um, Rick your way off topic. The topic at hand is the city offers a homeless shelter for families. It should be able to a) treat them with dignity; b) offer them services to gain affordable housing.

  • Wendy Glenn

    @ Jason...let me say AMEN to your comments Jason. You mean King (Do no Wrong Fenty and Tommy Tulip) can't find affordable housing for residents who have lost their homes. WOW, that is not what HIZZONER Fenty stated at th TENAC meeting he stated that he has ALWAYS championed the rights of the homeless and those of seniors. He also stated that he would exhaust all measures to keep families together and in livable conditions. Would his family live in these conditions.

    Well,I guess he doesn't care about these people since they primarily don't vote.

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  • downtown rez

    Jason, Dude:
    I'm not a conservative. I'm a registered Dem and a I was a registered Green in my time.
    I think everyone should have available free housing- should they truly need and want it. But I don't think it suits the nation to let people get too comfortable in it. Nor do I think beggars can be choosers. I've slept on floors, in cars, etc in my time. And you know what? It was an uncomfortably motivating experience. And I'm better for it today.
    If back then I'd had access to housing, income, or other amenities that were on par with the best- or even the median- of what was obtainable on the free market, I'd probably still be there today. And you would be paying for it.
    So don't talk to me about "conservative bullshit". You haven't earned that right.

  • Political Observer

    With the number of vacant houses and condos in Wards 5, 6, 7 and 8 (and downtown) due to foreclosures, where is the city's and council's effort to effectively utilize federal Neighborhood Stabilization funds to get these houses occupied by families and individuals living in shelters or waitlisted on the Housing by Choice rolls? Jason or Lydia, can you do a story on where and how DC's portion of the Neighborhood Stabilization funds were used compared to other "big cities?" Also what's the latest on the Bowser-Alexander foreclosure bill?

  • Blue Pen

    Didn't they close Franklin? Could that be causing any negative consequences?

  • DC Hoodrat

    I cannot wrap my mind around the sense of entitlement so pervasive in DC's black community and the white liberalism that supports this bullshit. Jason, why don't YOU rent an apartment for Mr. McCormick?

    Since when did self-reliance become a conservative virtue? You have a grown ass man who laying on his ass complaining about living in a fucking shelter... it could be worse. He should be grateful that he has a roof over his head. Why on earth does ANYONE think that it's the responsibility of DC government to provide for trifling ass people is beyond me.

    If you can sit your ass around and wait to be interviewed by a douchebag journalist, you can go out and find a job... oh wait... you actually have to have a skill set besides BEGGING and being a constant societal drain in order to be a viable candidate.

  • Typical DC BS

    @ downtown rez, @ DC Hoodrat: Amen.

  • Janis


    Fenty's family wouldn't live in those conditions, because not-for-nothing, both he and his wife are LAWYERS, own a home, I'll conjecture that they pay their bills, take care of their children, and have a substantial savings in case of hard times.

    Find me a person in DC General with the same credentials as the Fentys. You won't. What you will find are human societal parasites who have been told that they are too stupid to be trusted to fend for themselves.

    These leeches need a wake-up call.

  • downtown rez

    To be clear-
    I've nothing against the government helping people in hard times. I've needed that help myself. It's a good thing.
    But when I was sleeping on someone else's floors, I certainly didn't bitch about how clean they were or what the AC was set at.

  • Marina Streznewski

    The tired trope that people are homeless solely because they are lazy needs to be challenged. Yes, there are some people who would rather live on the dole permanently. They are a minority of homeless folks. The majority are homeless because -- and here's a shocker -- the District lacks affordable housing. (You can start at for research that proves this assertion.)

    If Mr. McCormick found a minimum-wage job today (a bit of a trick in a town with a nearly 12% unemployment rate), he'd need to work more than 100 hours per week to afford a 1 BR apt for himself and his son. This is based on a self-sufficiency wage of $21.19/hr for an adult with 1 child (see, compared to DC's minimum wage of $8.25/hr.

    I know, I know -- Mr. McCormick should go to school, work his way up, etc., etc. In a perfect world, that would be great. But it is not a perfect world. We do not know what Mr. McCormick's circumstances are -- perhaps he or his son have a chronic illness, or he lost a job, or he is one of the thousands of adults left behind in their youth by the DC school system that everyone agrees needs to be fixed. And even when Mr. McCormick overcomes the barriers he faces, it will take time for him to reach self-suffiency. In the meantime, he needs help, that includes shelter. I do not think it unreasonable for him to ask that the shelter he and his son need be habitable.

    I very much believe in karma. What we put into the world, we get back many times over. I choose to put compassion into the world, because even smart, decent, educated people can be victims of circumstance (the BP oil spill, anyone?). That compassion must be combined with hard work and advocacy to ensure my most vulnerable neighbors get help when they need it. I am grateful every day for people like those at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless -- and many, many others -- who are part of the same effort.

  • Sally

    Jason - You are ruining the credibility of the City Paper. Your pseudo-Loose Lips is awful. There's really very little to read the City Paper - whether the ever-shrinking paper version or the ever-lamer online version.

  • Ruth

    @Janis. These leeches you speak of (I'm sure you don't know them personally and have no background of their situation) have families and are living in terrible condidtions. They have children and from meeting many families at dc general i know they are doing their hardest to improve their situation. Those who are leaving comments about why or why not these people don't have jobs are not looking at the situation for what it is. Many of the families have young children under the age of 3 which means they don't go to school. DC General has no type of day care system so tell me how a single mother or father is supposed to present themselves at an interview. I am positive that those who feel like these people are "leeches" and "beggars" would not hire someone who comes to an interview with their 3 year old.

    As the article says there are over 200 children living in DC General. The city has offered help with providing DC General but I guess these families don't deserve AC and a clean environment? Wrong. With the trauma that these children go through the least they deserve is a to have some AC blowing in the shelter and to not have to worry about fleas when they have many other issues on their mind. Let's stop with all the BS and worry about the children. The parents have made their decisions and for whatever reason have ended up at DC General but it is not fair by any means that these children have to live like this and not be supported by the government with basic resources.

  • Pingback: Homeless DC Families Just Have To Wait For Shelter « Poverty & Policy

  • Carpetbagger


    @downtown rez:
    Maybe it was easier for you to accept whatever assistance was offered, because you didn't have a small child with you. You might have given a little more thought about sleeping in the middle of a mouse/rat crossing, if you had. BTW, when Mr. McCormick has to take his son to a hospital (how ironic) for his chronic nosebleeds because of the lack of A/C, doesn't that just add to the bill for DC taxpayers?

    And a single parent in a homeless shelter could mean that the other parent is unwilling to, or incapable of, providing support for the child(ren)...even so much as child care so that the able-bodied parent can afford to work. Yes, I said it! It costs money to work if you have children who cannot supervise themselves during a parent's work hours. That's why, unbeknownst to some of the hardworking denizens who comment, so many people do not qualify for unemployment if they (heavens to Betsy!) lose their jobs; you can't get unemployment if you can't take li'l Johnnie to the interviews to try to get a job.

    I feel sorry for all of the better-thans that comment here. Karma requires that you come back as anal hairs.

  • Ljay

    I don't think it is fair to say this man is triflin. When we are in a time where people is laid off there job and unemployment doesn't begin to cover rent and other bills. The job market is full of many generations so it is more competitive then ever out here. Everyone isn't in the shelter because they are lazy, trifling or want to be. Some people are there because they have no choice and always its no funds in the city for the people thats here and people who been paying taxes for years but now on hard times. Then they rather wait for you to get a writ verses helping you before its to that point. I can understand all of your comments but really in this world we living in today, unless you know why this person is in that situation we can't call them trifling and on top of that regardless of situations no one should have to live that way regardless. Because at the end of the day, we never know if we will be in that same position.