A D.C. fire inspector led an army of reporters, television cameramen and soundmen, and city officials through a shelter full of homeless women Thursday morning to investigate charges of overcrowded and unsanitary conditions there made earlier this week in the press.
Like a pied piper, Lt. John Fletcher, representing Mayor Marion Barry's Strike Force, led the group from room to room as residents sat cramped in their bunk beds, surrounded by paper bags of belongings, apparently bewildered by the media event.
Cameramen tripped over each other and microphones were thrust forward as the women shielded their eyes from the glare of television lights.
Fletcher emerged from the dilapidated three-story apartment building at 612 M. St. NW to announce that the apartment was "grossly overcrowded". He recommended that a nurse from the Department of Human Resources be dispatched to the scene to determine if any of the women there require supervision.
"I don't believe they should be there," added Norbert King, a member of Barry's Commission on Homelessness, when asked for comment.
Later yesterday, housing inspector James Herring said that the apartment contains about 1,030 square feet of space and that any such community of 43 people should have some 3,000 square feet under D.C. law.
Herring filed citations for overcrowding and unsanitary conditions.
An attorney for the owners of the building said that the group, known as the Women's Shelter Coordinating Committee, may gain the use of the remainder of the building, which would alleviate the overcrowding.
"Marion Barry is responsible for every cockroach in there," said Mitch Snyder, leader of the Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV), an ally of the shelter community.
"Frankly, I think that Mitch Snyder is full of s___," Barry had said Wednesday during an informal meeting with reporters about his old acquaintance. "No human being should live the way they're living in that house over there."