The D.C. General Shelter, where eight-year-old Relisha Rudd was taken from, is full of problems. The shelter itself is a former hospital that was converted into a shelter because of the serious issues of homeless families in the nation’s capitol. But according to residents the facility is far from safe. Residents spoke about open smoking of marijuana, strangers in the hallway and broken security cameras. If residents complained about the facility there was a feeling that they would be kicked out. The Washington Post recently interviewed many of the residents and spoke to them about Relisha Rudd’s disappearance and the prime suspect, janitor Khalil Tatum. According to the residents, Tatum would break shelter rules by socially interacting with residents, while staff members did nothing. One resident, Yolanda Manning, was quoted as stating that Tatum tried to give her daughter money during a birthday party. Per Manning, “he would often give money to little girls and never to the boys.” This was all done in plain view of staff according to several residents. Manning and other women at the shelter stated they are not allowed to post flyers inside the building about Rudd.
Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray’s administration has had its series of worries but the disappearance of Rudd highlights the issue of homeless families and lack of adequate, safe shelter. The hospital conversion was controversial and the city has been sued successfully over its unsafe conditions, including the fact that background checks on many staff members were either never done or not completed. The shelter is run by Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, a non-profit agency that won the city contract. They declined to answer any questions regarding the abduction of Rudd or the operations of the D.C. General Shelter. An email response stated that, “Shelter staff are prohibited from having contact with families outside of the responsibilities of their position,” which was not the case with Tatum. The shelter is overcrowded and houses 351 adults and 513 children per a city report done in October of 2013.
A predator in an environment with lax security regulations, broken cameras, drug using adults and little children would make the shelter prime hunting ground.