Regarding the July 13 front-page article “D.C. shelter a danger zone to many who live there”:
Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and other members of his administration have been crystal clear that D.C. General — like any aging, large-scale emergency shelter — is not an appropriate place to raise a family and should be closed. Shelters are the resource of last resort and should be used for the shortest amount of time possible. No amount of money could make D.C. General a suitable place for children, and that’s why Mr. Gray has tasked me with developing a plan by the end of the summer to close it.
The article failed to convey the vast complexity of family homelessness. Reforming the system is the only thing that can help families achieve self-sufficiency and lift themselves out of poverty, but it is not the stuff of newspaper exposés.
Supporting families in addressing the many issues that confront them and brought them to D.C. General or any family homeless shelter takes considerable resources, planning, skill and compassion. With the support of homelessness advocates and service providers, we have sought to reform how services are delivered to these families, an approach that begins with identifying needs and aspirations and then helping them develop a plan towards achieving that goal. The path for every family is unique.
We look forward to working with the D.C. Council and others to develop a network of smaller emergency shelters across the District. Meanwhile, we will continue to help families leave D.C. General for permanent housing as quickly and expeditiously as possible. This is the only way we will ever be able to close D.C. General responsibly and ensure that our most vulnerable families receive the assistance and support they deserve.
Beatriz Otero, Washington
The writer is the District’s deputy mayor for health and human services.
Deputy Mayor Beatriz Otero thought it was a joke that raccoons have been found inside D.C. General, saying, “I had one in my house this year.” So what? Ms. Otero wasn’t depending on the city to give her a safe place to live.
How could David Berns, the former director of human services, say that, although the District spends $1 million a month on maintenance of the shelter, “no amount of renovation is going to make D.C. General a great place to live.” Where is the money going?
It appears that city officials think those who stay at the shelter should be grateful just to have a place to lie their heads at night.
How can the District allow this to happen? Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and the D.C. Council seem more concerned about streetcars than giving people somewhere safe to live. Maybe if they spent one night at D.C. General, they would understand the families’ frustrations.
What’s the old saying: “There but for the grace of God go I’’?
Deborah Davis, Baltimore
The article on D.C. General left me disgusted. The shelter is inadequate, but fixing it up or throwing money at it is the wrong way to solve the greater problem. Sure, conditions may be corrected, but that would only perpetuate and increase problems.
The solution has to be made at the source of the problems. What are all these homeless single mothers and their kids doing at D.C. General in the first place? As long as our government hands out money, housing, food and medical coverage, it incentivizes more of this bad situation.
If the government changes its tactics and takes away these incentives, which allow and encourage irresponsible living, it may eventually reduce the problem. Let’s make it clear to young people that they must get an education and not have children until they, and not the government, can take care of themselves.
Murray Katz, Silver Spring