Members of the D.C. City Council and advocates for the homeless heard complaints from residents at the District’s main homeless shelter Thursday night.
According to Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who chaired the hearing, D.C. General Shelter at 1900 Massachusetts Ave. SE houses 286 families — almost 1,000 people — with a budget of more than $13 million per year.
“We have in a very real way created a small town at this site,” Graham said.
Residents’ testimony about conditions at the shelter were largely negative, including reports of bedbugs and rodent bites.
“The conditions for me as a mother are horrific,” said Momauwi Woods. She has lived at DC General since Oct. 24 with her 3-year old nephew, who she is raising. Woods and others reported security problems, drug use, inconsistent hot water and heat, and limited vocational and educational programming.
“Entire families are living in an old hospital next to a jail next to a cemetery next to an STD clinic,” Woods said.
Marcaus Scales, a disabled man who became homeless in 2012 and has lived at D.C. General for four months with his daughter, complained about the lack of programs for single fathers.
“I see these single mothers get a lot of assistance — nothing for me,” Scales said.
Others said they were grateful for the shelter, however imperfect.
“Being here at D.C. General has been very helpful,” said Sabrea Archie, who has lived at the facility for two months with her two daughters.
Archie, a former employee of the Corner Bakery in Union Station, sent her son to live with his father in Georgia and was living in a car before moving to the shelter.
Though she used the facility’s computer lab to find a job at the National Zoo and praised the shelter’s case managers, she said the help they could offer was limited.
“There should be more resources for them to give out to us,” Archie said.
Graham’s hearings on the facility come just days after he was reprimanded by the D.C. Council for alleged meddling in the city’s lottery contract process.
“We want to figure out ways in which we can make this better,” Graham said. “ We are not here to put lipstick on a pig.”