The District government for the first time has moved 16 homeless families to St. Elizabeths Hospital, after complaints that the families were disruptive at a motel used by the city as emergency housing.
D.C. Commissioner of Social Services Marjorie Hall Ellis said the families, including 33 children, spent Monday night at a multipurpose building at the mental hospital after the management of the Days Inn at 2700 New York Ave. NE complained that some families broke furniture and disturbed the motel's other guests.
Days Inn manager Dan Abramson disputed the claim that the motel management asked the families to leave on Monday afternoon, however, and insisted that the homeless families were not ordered out. He said the city had reserved the rooms only through Monday and did not request an extension.
The use of St. Elizabeths as an alternative to the motel reflects the District's continued difficulty in finding adequate emergency housing for a growing number of homeless families. Among the facilities used in the past were a high school gym, a rooming house frequented by prostitutes and a costly hotel that caters to businessmen.
The District recently turned to the Days Inn and two other hostelries to provide "open market" emergency shelter because the two hotels under contract with the city were full. The 16 families had been at the Days Inn for about a week.
The St. Elizabeths building to which the families were taken is used for training and receptions, said Robert Washington, the District's commissioner of mental health services. Although the building does not have beds, Washington said he is confident that it is a safe place for the families to stay for the five days he has been told they will remain there.
Abramson and other motel employes yesterday criticized the city for providing little or no supervision of the motel's homeless residents.
Assistant manager Penny Robbins said that one woman spent an entire day dozing on a sofa in the motel lobby, refusing to leave, while an infant in the woman's care received no food or change of clothes.
Robbins said she reported to work on a recent Sunday to find the lobby strewn with garbage. Abramson and executive housekeeper Bruce Frazier said many of the rooms were left filthy, with clothing littering the floors and food smashed into the carpeting and on the walls. Frazier said some maids have refused to enter the rooms.
Other guests at the motel, among them a soccer team from England, have checked out early because of noise and other problems associated with the homeless residents, according to Abramson.
"These are all adults who apparently have to be treated as children," Abramson. "Eighty percent of them don't care about anything."
DHS spokesman Charles Seigel said a search for new hotel rooms for the families placed at St. Elizabeths is under way.
"This is an unusual situation," he said. "We don't usually have people who are disruptive and get kicked out of a hotel. It is going to be hard to find a hotel to take people who were disruptive at another hotel."