IG: D.C. homeless shelter hired felons

Photo - Sleeping man on the bench (ThinkStock photo)
Sleeping man on the bench (ThinkStock photo)
Local,DC,Alan Blinder

Nearly one in four employees at a District homeless shelter were not subjected to criminal background checks, and five workers have felony convictions, the D.C. inspector general has found.

"The safety of children and youths receiving direct services from employees who do not have complete and satisfactory background checks and drug and alcohol testing may be at risk," Inspector General Charles Willoughby wrote. "Additionally, the District may be liable if an employee without a complete and satisfactory criminal background check or drug and alcohol test results harms a child or youth."

Willoughby's investigators reviewed personnel records of 65 employees of the shelter at the former D.C. General Hospital, which houses 160 families on Massachusetts Avenue in Southeast Washington.

The facility has a troubled history: In 2010, the District ended its agreement with a contractor to run the shelter because of sexual misconduct between employees and residents.

But even as the city swapped contractors to run the shelter on a daily basis, the employees remained the same, the inspector general said. All of D.C. General's employees, he wrote, became employees of the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, which runs other shelters in the city.

Although D.C. law requires most shelter employees to submit to background, drug and alcohol screenings because they work with children, the probe found that more than a dozen workers avoided scrutiny.

Shelter officials said they had conducted the checks, but they were unable to provide documentation to investigators.

Willoughby also said staff members did not regularly review the results of tuberculosis screenings. Although an unnamed shelter employee said a staff member had never contracted tuberculosis, investigators found one employee -- of the 19 who were screened -- had tested positive

"The team is concerned that these test results are not routinely and thoroughly reviewed," Willoughby said.

Reggie Sanders, a spokesman for the D.C. Department of Human Services, said the agency was reviewing the report "so that we can more fully address the findings."

Even as Willoughby criticized the shelter's personnel policies, he singled out the facility for being clean and well-maintained.

"Despite prior reports of poor physical conditions at many District homeless shelters, including D.C. General, the team found D.C. General's hallways, restrooms, kitchen areas and employee offices clean and orderly," Willoughby said. "The team never encountered any conditions suggesting neglect of D.C. General's facilities."

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