District government officials yesterday closed three run-down Northwest rooming houses and evicted 16 mostly elderly residents as part of its crackdown on unsafe and unlicensed health care facilities.
City orders posted in the doorways of 1242-46 15th St. NW said "dilapidated and unsafe conditions" at the homes "constituted an immenent danger to the safety of the building and its occupants" and represented a fire hazard.
The four-story brick buildings have no fire escape and open stairways, according to a high ranking fire official.
Deputy Corporation Counsel Geoffrey Alprin said city inspectors had found numerous housing, building, fire and zoning code violations in the buildings during recent visits.
The violations included broken windows, accumulations of dirt in patients' rooms, in toilets, soiled mattresses, dirty linen in closets, exposed electrical wiring, a heavy accumulation of oil in one basement, mice and roaches, and 45-degree temperatures in some rooms.
Six residents, including one man with no legs, were taken to city-run facilities. Eunice Tally, who operates the homes, promised city officials she would find housing for the rest who declined to have the city government shelter them.
The homes were closed by a special task force created earlier this year by Mayor Marion Barry to begin enforcing the city's two-year-old law regulating small health care facilities.
Barry took the action after a fire earlier this year killed 10 elderly women in a group home at 1715-17 Lamont St. NW.
Tally said she had been caring "for sick people" for three years, although she described the homes as rooming houses. She said she also served residents two meals a day.
"I think it's horrible," she said, referring to the city's action as she stood in front of one of the homes yesterday while police and city welfare officials ushered tenants from the home.
She said she couldn't understand why the city had chosen to move against her now. "We've been in 'danger' for five years," she said. "I couldn't get the money to remodel."
"I'm not going to leave," said Alonzo Johnson, 64, who is blind and has lived at the home for 15 years.
"Mrs. Tally treated me just as well as my mother and father did," he said.
George W. Berry, 70, disagreed. "I didn't like it," he said. "There was no heat and I was cold."
Berry, who said he moved in in January, added that he often slept in his clothes and a coat to keep warm because he had only one blanket on his bed.
Mary Louise Smith, another tenant, also complained of no heat. She said she paid $130 a month to rent one room where she had a hot plate, two broken windows, and a dead light fixture hanging from the ceiling by three exposed electrical wires.
Last week Buster Sumpter, 65, was found dead in one of the homes, apparently of natural causes, according to the office of the city's medical examiner. Police and city officials said the death was unrelated to yesterday's action.
The city orders said that the bay-windowed Victorian homes in the center of Shaw could not reopen until "all dilapidated and unsafe conditions" had been corrected to the satisfaction of the fire marshal.