WASHINGTON – A moment of silence and prayer for Relisha Rudd opened a D.C. Council committee hearing Friday that looked into the problems at the massive homeless shelter near R.F.K. Stadium where the missing girl’s family lives, and where the man accused of taking her worked until last week.
“There are hundreds of District children at D.C. General and at shelters throughout the region who are just as vulnerable as Relisha,” says Judith Sandalow, executive director of the Children’s Law Center.
Despite complaints about rats, bedbugs and only intermittent hot water, Department of Human Services Director David Berns says the shelter operator does the best it can to serve the approximately 1,000 people currently living at D.C. General.
The shelter is housed inside the former city hospital, which closed more than a decade ago.
“This is a very well-run facility, managed by long-term and trusted partners. They do this in a building that is outdated, that is antiquated, that was not designed for this purpose” says Berns.
While there are rules about curfews and interactions with staff, children living at the shelter are still in their parents’ custody, which means shelter staff cannot immediately raise an alarm just because a child living in the shelter does not stay there on a particular night.
“A child may stay with a grandparent, which is completely acceptable under our rules. The kids are not in our care and custody. They are in the care and custody of their parents