Homeless shelters maxed out in District

A brutal winter with sub-freezing temperatures is maxing out homeless shelters in the district. Now, needy families are crossing into Maryland where they're being sheltered in hotels.

"This hypothermia season is really bringing attention to the volume of people that are living in our city that do not have housing," said Capitol Hill Group Ministry Executive Director Karen Cunningham.

The Washington Post reports more than 300 homeless families are now being placed in D.C. and Maryland hotels, including the Howard Johnson in Cheverly.

General manager Todd Peterson said families began to arrive earlier this month, and about 60 rooms are being occupied by the group until further notice. The process is being facilitated by the Department of Human Services, with D.C. taxpayers footing the bill.

"We are a hotel and we need to look out for the traditional guests, but we also have a larger group than normal this winter, that needs care too," said Peterson.

"We're having a burgeoning crisis with homeless families, and it has gotten worse every year and we're at a proportion we haven't seen in 25 years," said D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells.

Wells puts the blame on the current administration for reaching this level. A spokesperson for Mayor Vincent Gray said Tuesday's press conference was a political stunt for Wells, and it was shameless.

The Mayor's office added that under the unusually cold conditions, no one is being turned away and instead people are being placed where the price point is reasonable, even if it means finding accommodations in Maryland.

Capitol Hill Group Ministry, a nonprofit serving low-income and homeless families, is making sure that folks know where to go in times of need.

"Check on them, provide blankets and beverages, and when it's really cold like this, we encourage them to go into a shelter," said Cunningham.

Putting politics aside, the group hopes the issue of homelessness continues to be at the forefront, even as the temperature begins to rise.

"Budget season is coming up and I hope that neighbors in the district that are concerned about homeless families, and the council and the mayor, really put the money behind making sure there are affordable housing options," said Cunningham.