The D.C. Department of Human Services, in an effort to reduce the District's reliance on costly hotels for short-term emergency shelter for homeless families, has more than doubled its spending for apartment units, creating a $4 million transitional housing network designed to make the families self-sufficient.

The Pitts Motor Hotel, the costly and controversial facility that has been the primary emergency shelter funded by the city, will be phased out as a city contractor, officials said. The city has issued a one-year $985,000 contract to Urban Shelters and Health Care Systems to run a new 50-bed receiving center.

City records also show that Urban Shelters, a firm headed by Roy Littlejohn, has been awarded a separate $851,916 contract to provide 25 units of transitional housing at 2115 R St. SE and 209 Atlantic St. SE. Littlejohn is a D.C. contractor whose business records were subpoenaed this year as part of an extensive federal probe into District contracting.

Currently, the government is providing shelter for 512 homeless families, including 1,075 children, and is receiving additional requests for shelter at the rate of 35 to 56 families a week, said Vernon Hawkins, acting commissioner of social services. The city experienced more than a 500 percent increase in the number of families seeking emergency shelter last year, and Hawkins anticipates a 20 percent increase during the next year.

"As part of our comprehensive plan for homeless families, the goal is to ensure that we are placing them in the types of facilities conducive to family living," said Hawkins.

In addition to placing families in apartment units where they will receive intensive financial, employment and educational counseling, the comprehensive plan calls for limiting a family's stay at emergency shelter facilities to 30 days, said Hawkins.

The city's $4 million budget for transitional housing is a $2.5 million increase over spending for such units last year. Most of the 118 units in the new network were brought on line last month when the city issued five contracts worth $2.9 million.

Under those contracts, the city has agreed to a cost per housing unit that varies from $1,354 a month per unit to $2,859 per month. In each case, the cost includes 24-hour shelter and some counseling and relocation services for the homeless families. Earlier this year, city officials were criticized for spending from $2,500 to $3,078 a month per unit.

Yesterday, Hawkins said he considers the cost of the recently issued contracts reasonable because they are based on fair market rates and standards accepted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

D.C. Council member H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7), chairman of the council's Committee on Human Services and a critic of what he has deemed the excessive cost of housing families in hotels, said the cost for some transitional units is not reasonable but is the best the city can do considering the demand.

"We couldn't eliminate all the providers who were participating in the program," said Crawford, referring to the more costly housing providers. "Winter is coming. Had we disregarded contracts, we would have compounded our problem . . . . There are profit-motivated {vendors} who are way above what we should be paying, whom we will put out of business if they don't fall into line."

Of the contracts awarded recently, the lowest cost was negotiated with the Community of Hope, a nonprofit organization providing social services and 12 units of housing at 1417 Belmont St. NW at a monthly cost of $1,354 per unit. By contrast, a $350,268 contract with Washington and Washington Enterprises Inc., a for-profit firm, calls for the city to spend $2,654 per month, including counseling services, for each of 11 units at 1634 Independence Ave. SE.

The city has awarded two other contracts for transitional housing units. Trans-Management Systems Corporation received a one-year contract for $561,295 to provide 20 units of housing at 2017 17th St. NE, and Comprehensive Marketing Systems Inc. received a one-year $994,085 contract to provide 48 units of housing at 1448 Park Rd. NW.