Oversight hearing surfaces complaints about Virginia Williams Family Resource Center
Virginia Williams Family Resource Center is the primary D.C. government entity for all families requiring assistance with their housing needs. The center, located on Rhode Island Ave NE near the Brentwood Metro Station, provides housing resources, temporary shelter, community resources, food stamps, and Medicaid.
Many people have expressed complaints about how they were treated at the Virginia Williams Center by various staff members and employees. Eight people testified at the recent DHS/ICH joint oversight committee meeting on March 1 about their negative experiences at Virginia Williams.
One of the people who testified, Tanisha Vinson, a single mother of three children, became homeless after her former property was foreclosed without warning from her landlord. She lived with a relative for a bit, but it soon became unsustainable, so she moved into her car. Vinson then went to Virginia Williams for assistance, where she was turned away several times, including one time where “the caseworker at Virginia Williams center escorted me to my car to verify I was actually staying in my car [which] I found to be very unprofessional and humiliating.”
Donesathes Wynn, another testifier at the DHS/ICH Oversight Committee Meeting, was sleeping in homeless shelters with her disabled son when she decided to seek help from Virginia Williams. She testified, “The first time I went to Virginia Williams Family Resource Center, before I had a lawyer, they looked at me and said that they could not help me because my son did not look like he was disabled, even though I showed them the social security paperwork showing he had a disability.” Wynn was also turned away two more times from Virginia Williams because she could not provide papers proving she was the legal guardian of her son.
Two other women, Lokiesha Hester and Shellae Shorter, were turned away from Virginia Williams while they were pregnant because women can only be admitted for services when they are seven months pregnant. Hester was turned away even though she was living in an increasingly abusive relationship, and, when she was eventually admitted to Virginia Williams, they referred her to another program where she did not receive satisfactory services for her needs.
The Department of Human Services, the government entity that manages the Virginia Williams Center, did not provide a comment in response to these complaints about Virginia Williams.
All eight of the people who testified about Virginia Williams at the meeting mentioned how the staff at Virginia Williams were rude and disrespectful to them in some way, including the staff getting angry and frustrated with them for seemingly no reason. Some, such as Vinson, believe that those working at Virginia Williams need to have more compassion and patience with clients at the center.
Others people who testified said they know what resources they need to get out of homelessness, but Virginia Williams and the city are not very forthcoming about providing those resources. Shorter said she requires assistance paying the security deposit on an apartment, but D.C. refuses to provide it because she does not have ample proof of employment.
“I feel that greater sincerity and sympathy amongst caseworkers and other city employees would make seeking out services less intimidating and more effective,” Hester said in her testimony. “People really need to care.”