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At 10 a.m. tomorrow, Councilmember Tommy Wells will hold an oversight hearing focusing mainly on the allegations surrounding D.C. General’s family shelter. The hearing may do nothing to save the nonprofit, Families Forward Inc., from losing its contract to manage the shelter. Wells has already stated that its contract will be terminated.
At the very least, the hearing will be the most public airing of the mismanagement found at D.C. General: Families Forward’s firing of abusive workers, the slow case management services, the sexual harassment, the death of two newborns in the past two years, along with the mold and over-crowded conditions. City Desk has learned that the hearing is only going to be the first step towards a more intensive look at the shelter and its nonprofit provider.
Attorney General Peter Nickles is investigating the allegations that staff had sex with female residents. Today, the Department of Human Services’ Fred Swan says that the Office of the Inspector General is also investigating the family shelter.
“We’re looking at all this stuff,” Swan says. “It’s been handed off to the Inspection General”
Swan refused to comment about the investigation. When we asked about the two newborn deaths, Swan replied: “Of course that concerns us. The fact that anybody died at one of our shelter sites concerns us.”
Swan refused to comment about the Department of Human Services’ oversight into the family shelter. No one else connected with running D.C. General wanted to talk much either.
The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, the organization that coordinates city services, refused to comment about its own oversight role.
Sanjor Reed, CEO of Nutrition Inc., the company contracted with providing meals at the shelter, also refused to comment. “They don’t want me talking about anything,” Reed said. She did add that she had not heard a single complaint about the shelter’s food.
City Desk had interviewed two families that stated that they had to rush their children to the hospital due to food poisoning.
And finally, Families Forward Inc., refused comment. Orlando Harper, a program assistant scheduled to speak at tomorrow’s hearing, expressed total ignorance concerning the two newborn deaths. Had he even heard about the deaths? “No sir, I didn’t.”
There may be a reason no one in authority feels compelled to discuss their oversight of D.C. General. There seems to have been no real oversight until now. The OIG had investigated Families Forward’s conduct during the Banita Jacks case and found huge gaps in its case management services.
But last June, according to District records, the Department of Human Services not only gave Families Forward high marks for its case management but lauded the facility as well. The department’s shelter monitoring unit wrote: “the condition of the facility was very clean, organized and well maintained.”
DHS must have missed the mold and peeling paint. Or the mold and peeling paint suddenly became a problem a few months later:
The DHS monitor was just as thorough with residents. It only interviewed six families, according to the report.
The monitor also noted that Families Forward Inc. had conducted criminal background checks and drug testing of its employees. And that the staff had completed CPR training. There’s no indication whether or not the monitor actually fact-checked the staff’s assertions.
Not only did DHS not find mold or peeling paint, they noted that there was no evidence of rodent or insect infestation. The monitor did report that residents had complained of mice in their rooms.
The DHS monitor’s conclusion: “The DC General Family Hypothermia/Emergency Shelter has adequately complied with the Common Standards and applicable additional standards by providing a temporary facility with meals, clean bedding, working showers, toilets and case management services.”