[Ed. – No word on how the District of Columbia will be required to pay for this.]
A judge on Monday ordered the District of Columbia to provide homeless families private rooms when temperatures drop below freezing instead of housing them in public recreation centers.
The ruling by District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Robert Okun came in response to a lawsuit filed by a group of homeless people who said the housing offered by the United States capital placed their children in danger.
Washington’s financial burden is outweighed by the “psychological harm of the most vulnerable members of our society, the children of the homeless” if they are denied safe housing, the judge said.
In some cases, the Washington families were put near recreation center basketball courts and separated from other homeless people and strangers by portable partitions.
Witnesses during the trial complained of bright lights, noise and odors from alcohol and marijuana smoke.
Je’nique Fultz, a homeless mother whose daughter was born March 14, testified she would carry her child to the bathroom with her because she was concerned for her safety.
Kim Katzenbarger, an attorney for the District of Columbia, told Okun the city would appeal his decision. City social workers testified that a record number of Washington families sought emergency housing this winter.
Washington’s only shelter for homeless families with children was filled by early winter, forcing city officials to rent more than 400 motel rooms for them.