DC Government: End the abuse of homeless shelter residents

DC Government: End the abuse of homeless shelter residents

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Grassroots CUA started this petition to DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and

“The food here is awful… they let it sit out for hours before serving it, and it has made several kids and adults get sick.”

“Staff doesn't wear mask and gloves, and they want to search us and touch our belongings.”

“No one in here is putting their foot down to step up and advocate for us… instead they treat us like we are nothing, and like our situation does not matter.”

“We basically get treated like we’re in jail… they don’t allow us to let our kids play.”


For weeks, the DC mutual aid network Facebook group has been flooded with posts from residents at the Days Inn short-term family shelter, requesting such basic provisions as food and masks.  Upon investigation, local community advocates heard dire reports – and the list of accusations keeps growing.  In addition to the above statements, residents allege violations of privacy, the presence of rodents in living spaces, and targeted harassment of same-sex couples by shelter staff.  This shelter is funded by taxpayer money, and as residents of the Washington DC area, we demand better.  Not only must conditions at the Days Inn shelter improve now, but the responsible government officials and contractors must hold themselves accountable, and provide demonstrable, systemic change.


The Days Inn shelter is operated by the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, or TCP – a private nonprofit with a long history of issues with oversight.  They and the city were investigated in 2017 for a contract loophole wherein TCP was named as responsible for oversight, but only on contracts which TCP itself did not sign, thus allowing all parties to wash their hands of said responsibility.  Yet another point of ambiguity in TCP contract language may have been a factor in the 2014 disappearance of 8-year-old Relisha Rudd from a TCP-operated shelter: though an investigation concluded that no one party could have prevented this tragedy, it is relevant that nobody was officially required to report the misbehavior of her probable kidnapper (then employed as a shelter janitor) to any authority during the time leading up to her disappearance.  That particular hole in the rules has since closed, but complaints in a similar vein against TCP continue.  


Reports from current residents at the Days Inn are consistent with an institutional indifference towards oversight and accountability – residents complain that inspectors and social workers simply don't show up, and as mentioned previously, the shelter itself and all its provisions are in a continual state of neglect and disrepair.  Despite these numerous causes for concern, the District of Columbia continues to renew contracts with TCP to the tune of several million dollars per year.


We demand that the nature of the relationship between DC DHS and TCP, and the inner workings of TCP itself, be investigated and re-evaluated with a critical eye.  But this on its own is not enough.  As the recent protests have demonstrated, the public will no longer turn a blind eye towards the continued influence of systemic racism and discrimination in society and government.  Homelessness is a symptom of systemic oppression and bias, disproportionately affecting Americans of color (particularly Black Americans), and members of the LGBTQ community.  The indifference towards the welfare and safety of people struggling with homelessness and poverty both reflects and contributes to these cycles of oppression.  This can not continue at any level of society, and especially not in the government institutions we trust to keep us safe.  What follows is a list of specific demands of all responsible government officials:

 

WE DEMAND:


1) Publicly acknowledge, and apologize for, the poor conditions experienced by residents at the Days Inn shelter.


2) All shelters must completely cease with terminations/evictions for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis, as is already required by law.


3) Increase funding in the DC budget for ending and preventing chronic homelessness.


4) Hold shelter staff accountable for the treatment of residents, at the Days Inn and other shelters
     a. Shelter staff responsible for the harassment of LGB couples must be identified and fired.
     b. Mandate monthly staff training on interacting respectfully with diverse populations, incl. LGBTQ people, and people of all ethnic and national backgrounds.  Any shelter staff who do not complete this training, including MPD officers acting as security guards, may not be permitted to work in shelters.
     c. Require all shelter staff, including MPD officers acting as security guards, to wear masks and gloves while interacting with residents
     d. Establish and enforce rules for respectful behavior towards residents.


5) Improve living conditions at the Days Inn immediately
     a. Enforce high standards for hygienic food distribution/storing and food service in shelters, and formally investigate the allegations of food poisoning from meals served at the Days Inn.
     b. Address the rodent issue within the living spaces.
     c. Provide adequate protective equipment (masks and gloves) to all shelter residents.
     d. Offer continual, accessible, educational training for residents on their rights.


6) Re-evaluate contracts between the District of Columbia and The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, and between DC and other parties contracted in the operation of homeless shelters, with a view to more thoroughly enforcing inspection and accountability.

7) Investigate TCP’s history of problems with shelter maintenance and accountability. If TCP cannot prove significant work towards fixing these problems, it should lose its contract.

8) Commit to a timely, significant increase in affordable long-term housing in the District – this being a better investment in our beautiful city than the local government’s continued appeals to large scale corporations and developers, whose presence serves only to drive up already-unaffordable rents.

Finally, we call on you to evaluate the contents of your own hearts, and acknowledge what has always been true: that no human being is disposable, and all people deserve a safe and dignified place to live.

Thank you.

0 have signed. Let’s get to 2,500!
At 2,500 signatures, this petition is more likely to get picked up by local news!