With a meager budget and limited staff, the Crisis Center of Prince George’s County, in Brentwood, Md., has offered a haven to victims of domestic violence since 1981. In December, residents complained to the Washington Post they were forced to live in a 100-year-old building plagued with mold, poor heating and rotten food.
As a result, Sophie Ford, the shelter’s executive director, lost her job. Ford was named as an interim manager for the shelter in 2014 and county officials have visited the facility to make sure the nonprofit group running the shelter is doing everything it can to improve the situation. The shelter was built in 1915.
“One of the biggest takeaways for me is that I have been here for three years and one person wrote that I was the best director that they ever had,” Ford told the AFRO, referencing that, under her leadership, several of the building’s problems were being addressed. “None of these people have any clue of what is really going on.”
Ford said she only had a $10,000 budget to maintain the facility that is operated by her non-profit group 24 hours a day. However, according to the Post, the county gives the shelter $385,000 a year to operate. It also received $108,000 in the Fall of 2017 to expand services to southern Prince George’s County.
While Ford said she planned to develop a plan and make other changes she never got the opportunity. Last week the Crisis Center Board of Directors asked for Fords resignation and she agreed to step down.
Despite agreeing to leave, Ford said in an interview, that while residents went to the media they never came to her. “We have a complaint and grievance processes and neither I nor my second in command received any complaint.”
In the final days of the year, the board named Andrea Morris interim executive director until Jan. 1 and announced Michelle Williams, a former manager in the D.C. Department of Social Services, would manage the shelter until a permanent replacement could be found.
“The biggest thing is helping people to feel safe in the immediate crisis,” Williams told the AFRO. “Once we can get people stable in the shelter they can plan what their next housing opportunity will be.”
Even though Williams has the skills to bring order to the facility, Morris said her job is not easy
because the facility houses about 50 people in the building each day. “It’s hard,” Morris said, “but the good news is that we never lost our occupancy license and we are sound in terms of the physical plant.”