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Dear Angela,  

Most of the restrooms I am able to use in D.C. are very dirty and definitely not sanitary. How can I try to fix this problem without having to clean them myself? – Robert 


I know exactly how you feel! Every time I am downtown and need to use the bathroom, it takes three or four tries at different establishments before I can find a place that will allow me to use the facilities without making a purchase. Then, once I get into the restroom, I am almost too scared to use it because it is far from clean! It is a dreaded and horrible experience. 

We all have a right to use a clean and sanitary restroom. It would also be really nice if more businesses would allow the public to use the restroom free of charge. Not everyone can afford to buy something every time they need to go. 

I would start by letting the manager of the establishment know exactly what the issues are. If this doesn’t fix the problem(s), I would write them a letter explaining the situation and list problems that need to be addressed. I would keep a copy of the letter for your records because if it doesn’t seem like that has solved anything or encouraged them to clean the facilities, report them to the Better Business Bureau and to the city council. I would even write to the local papers, like this one, and let them know about the conditions the establishment is in. I am not sure what exactly is going on with the public bathroom vote the city council took, but I hope that if and when they do put more public restrooms in D.C. they make sure that they will be kept clean and sanitary. Hopefully the pilot program to offer businesses downtown a tax break or some sort of incentive to offer their restrooms to the public free of charge will start soon. That should mean more clean restrooms for us to enjoy! —Angela 


Dear Angela,  

I have my Section 8 voucher and I stay on Benning Road in Southeast. My front door locks do not work properly, two of my windows do not lock, my shower has a huge hole in the tile through the wall into the living room closet (I am sure it has black mold), and my heat works when and how it wants to. How can I get this under control? I thought I was promised a safe and secure place to live. – Brianna 


That sounds very unsafe and most definitely uncomfortable. Unfortunately somehow I hear about this same situation with way too many people I know that have their Section 8 voucher. I was in almost the exact same situation myself! When we are homeless, a lot of times we are so happy to get a roof over our heads that we allow little problems to slide when we first get to move in. The problem with that is… How a situation begins is typically how it ends. If there are issues that passed inspection, even though they should never have, and you didn’t bring them up as soon as you saw them, the landlord won’t see them as a problem. And then the little issues become big issues.  

I would get your case manager to come take pictures and contact the property manager to get them fixed. If nothing gets done with that route, I would call the Department of Human Services and request an emergency inspection. When they come out, make sure to show the inspector all the issues. Your landlord will have a certain amount of time to fix any issues that they found during the inspection. If everything is not done by the due date, DHS will start the process of issuing you a new voucher. Your case manager will help you find a place to move and getting the DHS to help with moving to your new safer and better housing. 

My personal feelings on this recurring issue is… It is the landlords fault for being a slumlord and not having their units fixed. But the responsibility also rests with the inspections department at DHS. Their inspectors are passing units that should NEVER pass a safe and secure inspection. If you have any follow up questions feel free to email me anytime.

Send your own questions to Angela at [email protected]