D.C. housing homeless singles in two-bedroom apartments

Local,DC,Alan Blinder

The D.C. Department of Human Services squandered more than $320,000 by providing two-bedroom apartments to dozens of homeless District residents who lived alone, the city auditor has found.

In a report issued this week, D.C. Auditor Yolanda Branche said DHS has placed 69 single-person households into two-bedroom apartments since 2008.

"The District paid too much," Branche wrote. "Between 2008 and 2011, DHS paid approximately $323,596 more than was necessary to house one person households in two bedroom apartments."

The housing assignments were part of the city's Permanent Supportive Housing Program, which provides permanent shelter to individuals and families who have been homeless for at least a year or on multiple occasions. Participants must also have at least one chronic health condition -- including mental illness -- and "one or more other substantial barriers to housing stability." Those barriers, the auditor said, could include trauma, domestic violence or "extensive involvement" with child and family welfare regulators.

Agency leaders acknowledged that city officials had previously assigned individuals to large apartments, but the department said it had ended the practice.

"DHS did provide two-bedroom apartments to single individuals. ... In most cases, two-bedroom apartments were provided as a result of a lack of availability of one-bedroom apartments," the department wrote in a response to Branche's audit. "DHS has long since discontinued placing single individuals in two-bedroom apartments unless they are reuniting with family or have a reasonable accommodation need in which a larger apartment is required."

The city acknowledged, though, that 29 individuals who merit smaller accommodations remain in two-bedroom apartments awaiting reassignment and that dozens of individuals had been allowed to use two-bedroom apartments for more than two years.

In her report, Branche also criticized the program for failing to track more than $6 million.

"There are no records to prove that $6,174,647 of District funds were properly paid," the auditor wrote, saying the group that received the money "did not provide DHS with receipts, vouchers or other supporting documentation."

The department acknowledged it didn't review all documentation, but said it did have a system in place to prevent waste.

Still, the agency said it would implement new procedures to improve its review of receipts and invoices.

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