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An internal audit conducted by D.C.’s Department of Human Services shows that Life Deeds Inc., the social services provider responsible for managing the daily operations of a 35-unit homeless shelter in Ward 7, submitted what appear to be false personnel documentation in its bid to run the shelter, a DHS staff member tells City Paper.
Those documents include background checks, drug tests, TB tests, and other personnel information the prospective staff are required to submit to DHS. Last September, the D.C. Council approved Life Deeds’ $2.7 million contract to “provide comprehensive core services necessary to operate” the shelter, later approving a final price of over $3 million. The contract as written expires on Sept. 14 of this year.
DHS is in the process of replacing Life Deeds staff at the shelter with its own staff, and additional DHS staff will shadow the Life Deeds staff not yet dismissed from the shelter.
“We are committed to providing a safe and secure environment for families exiting homelessness. Out of an abundance of caution, the Department of Human Services chose to assign agency staff to the Horizon short-term family housing program until all issues surrounding personnel and background checks are resolved. We continue to offer access to a full suite of service-enriched programming at Horizon to help families stabilize and get back on their feet,” DHS Director Laura Zeilinger said in a written statement to City Paper.
In 2017, the D.C. Council also approved a $1.5 million contract for Life Deeds to run “group home services” for youth aged 12 to 21 who have been remanded from D.C.’s court system. A DHS employee says the agency’s audit will also extend to Life Deeds staff working with that program.
City Paper reached Allieu Kamara, the executive director of Life Deeds, by phone on Wednesday afternoon. When asked whether the events as described are accurate, he said, “with that piece, you’re going to have to talk to the government. That situation did not take place in that manner which you’re saying.” City Paper asked him whether he was denying that Life Deeds falsified any personnel documentation for the Ward 7 shelter. “No, what I’m saying is that you have to talk to DHS,” he says.
Shortly after City Paper hung up with Kamara, he called back. “On my end, Life Deeds did not falsify any documents,” he says. He says that “disgruntled [former] staff” is “making this up.” The company is just “trying to take care of business and take care of families.” Referring to Life Deeds’ relationship with DHS, Kamara says “everything is good.” City Paper asked whether DHS dismissed any Life Deeds staffers from the Ward 7 shelter. Kamara grunted “nuh-uh” in reply.
The Horizon, a homeless shelter that opened last fall at 5004 D Street SE, was constructed as part of Mayor Muriel Bowser‘s plan to close DC General, a decades-old hospital that later became D.C.’s largest family homeless shelter, and open smaller shelter sites across the city. City Paper reported last summer that contracting and construction issues delayed the opening of the shelter, after D.C.’s Department of General Services hired a modular construction company, which did not functionally exist at the time of contract procurement, to construct the shelters in wards 7 and 8.
“With these new short-term family housing programs, we are providing a chance for our families to rebuild their circumstance as they continue to contribute to our greater D.C. community,” Bowser said in a statement last fall.
We will continue to update this story.