A Metro section article yesterday incorrectly reported the amount paid by the District government to place homeless families in a Northwest hotel. The correct amount is $25 to $40 a room. CAPTION: Picture, A city official said shelter for a family of four at the Pitts Hotel costs about $2,700 a month. Washington Post Photo
At a congressional hearing on the plight of the homeless yesterday, Chairman Ted Weiss (D-N.Y.) questioned the District's practice of providing temporary emergency shelter for families at a Northwest hotel.
Citing what he considered the high costs charged by the Pitts Motor Hotel on Belmont Street NW and hotels in other cities used as emergency family shelters, Weiss asked a Social Security Administration official, "Are you aware that Washington, D.C., is paying as much as $3,400 a month to house a family in a single room at the Pitts Hotel?" Weiss is chairman of a subcommittee of the House Government Operations Committee.
But Charles Siegel, spokesman for the District's Department of Human Services, said later, "$3,400 is somewhat of an exaggeration."
Siegel said the city actually pays the Pitts about $2,700 a month for a family of four, the average size of a family living at the hotel.
"The price includes three meals a day per person," said Siegel. "We pay $12.48 per person each day for the meals, which comes to $1,497 a month for a family of four.
"The cost of the room," he said, "is $42.85 a day for a family of four. For a month that totals $1,285."
Siegel said he did not know the amount of the city's contract with the Pitts, but that it was close to that quoted at the hearing by Sandra E. Brawders, executive director of the House of Ruth, a privately run shelter for homeless women.
"The budget . . . last year was $1.7 million dollars and an additional $400,000 amended to the contract for additional service to families," said Brawders, who asked: "What do we get for this amount of money for families in shelter? Educational programs? No. Parent training classes? No. Day care for working mothers who are trying to get out of the shelter? Absolutely not."
Siegel said the total amount paid to Pitts does include the cost of feeding the families who stay at three other hotels under contract to DHS to provide emergency shelter. The families are bused to Pitts three times a day, he said.
There are 51 families at Pitts, located at 1451 Belmont St. NW, and the average stay is three months, Siegel said.
DHS has stopped housing families at the Capitol City Inn on New York Avenue NE after police complained to the city's Department of Consumer Regulatory Affairs that the facility is frequented by prostitutes, Siegel said.
The two other hotels receive the "overflow" from the Pitts. The city pays a Northeast hotel $38.40 per person per day. And a Northwest facility charges the city according to the size of the family and prices can vary from $25 to $40 per person per day, Siegel said.
As for the congressional criticism, Siegel said he isn't sure "there is a tremendously more efficient way" of housing families.
"This is a temporary shelter," he said. "We don't want to buy people houses. We want to emphasize that we are compassionate . . . but we are not the final solution. The reality [about cost] is that we are running a hotel."