Judge orders D.C. to vacate makeshift shelters for homeless families

Pro bono lawyers with the firm Hogan Lovells helped 79 homeless families bring a class-action suit against DC over winter quarters lacking privacy and security.

News Story (District of Columbia)

Aaron C. Davis, Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post
March 24, 2014
Link to story

Tags: Housing: Homelessness, Pro Bono


A D.C. Superior Court judge on Monday issued a stinging rebuke of Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s handling of a prolonged surge in family homelessness, ordering his administration to immediately stop housing poor families on cots in gymnasiums on freezing nights.Judge Robert D. Okun said the communal sleeping quarters that the District began erecting in recreation centers after a midwinter change in policy appeared to deny scores of parents and children their right to privacy and security under city law and may be traumatizing for children.

The shift to communal shelters has also struck many low-income, homeless and child advocates as callous, drawing in pro bono work by lawyers who this month won class-action status for the 79 families who had been placed in recreation centers since late January.

The lawsuit alleged that children, parents and sometimes grandparents had been unable to shower for days and got only cots in big, noisy rooms that were illuminated all night. Flimsy partitions exposed unrelated families to one another.
Outside the courtroom Monday, several of the homeless families hugged the pro bono lawyers with the firm Hogan Lovells. Reid said she stayed in a hotel Sunday night as opposed to returning to the recreation center with her grandson.