- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 26, 2018

A Northeast hotel that houses homeless people is dealing with a mold problem that homeless advocates say could be widespread.

“It has been a very wet year, and that has contributed to some of the mold issues in the rooms,” Michael Sze, general manager of the Days Inn, said in an email in response to inquiries from The Washington Times.

Staffers at the hotel, in the 2700 block of New York Avenue NE, regularly clean and inspect the rooms with personnel from the D.C. Department of Human Services, Mr. Sze said, adding that the hotel provides air filters for rooms with any “air quality problems.” He also said the Days Inn is renovating its rooms to combat the mold but the process takes time.

“We take mold very seriously and have done our best to address issues that is reported,” he wrote. “It does my property no good to ignore issues in the rooms.”

But two residents told The Times that the Days Inn’s “renovated” rooms also have mold.

Robin Hall, 60, said hotel staffers moved her to a “renovated” room after she had complained about mold underneath the carpeting and grime on the air conditioner and air filter in her old room. But the new room also has mold, which she photographed spreading to her shoes and her daughter’s purse over the last six months.

The hotel gave her new filters for the air conditioner and air purifier, but there’s so much dust they need to be emptied every three days, she said.

“I’m really tired,” Ms. Hall said. “I want to move.”

Sekethia Marshall, 37, recently moved out of the Days Inn for more permanent housing. Ms. Marshall, who is disabled, said hotel staffers moved her to a first floor room because frequent elevator outages made it difficult to reach her quarters on the second floor.

The new room came with moldy carpets and dusty air, she said. “I was coughing a lot. My asthma did flare up.”

Ms. Marshall said she believes the mold and dust made breathing difficult for her 16-year-old son, who has allergies, asthma and severe sleep apnea. “He was jumping out of his sleep, running around the room, gasping for air,” she said.

Caitlin Cocilova is a staff attorney with The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless who has worked with families staying at the Days Inn. She said her “experience is we have consistently heard from people about mold in some of the rooms. It’s not isolated. It’s definitely widespread.”

The hotel is one of several that Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration is using to house homeless people while shelters are being built to replace the facility at the old D.C. General Hospital campus, which was demolished this fall following years of reports of mold, pests and staffing issues.

The District pays The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness (TCP) about $75 million a year to manage the hotel program and other shelter systems, The Washington City Paper reported this summer. The city has placed about 450 homeless families in hotels at a total cost of about $64,000 per night, reported WUSA 9 this month.

TCP’s manager for the Days Inn is Yolanda Alexander, who said she could not answer questions about room conditions when reached by phone Friday, adding that The Times “had to go through the proper channels” for comment. When asked if there was anyone at TCP who could answer questions, Ms. Alexander hung up.

TCP’s voicemail was listed as full, then unavailable, after multiple calls Friday.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Human Services did not respond to requests for comment.

Ms. Cocilova said it’s difficult to learn the scope of the problem because mold issues are “amorphous” and “a lot of people probably aren’t complaining about it because they just figure we just have to deal with it.”

• Julia Airey can be reached at jairey@washingtontimes.com.

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