Director of Domestic Violence Program Fired After Unlivable Conditions Revealed in Women's Shelter - NBC4 Washington

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Director of Domestic Violence Program Fired After Unlivable Conditions Revealed in Women's Shelter



    Raw: Now-Fired Women's Shelter Head Denies Bad Conditions

    Sophie Ford, previously the director of the Family Crisis Center of Prince George's County, spoke with News4's Tracee Wilkins about conditions of a home the organization manages. Residents complained of mice, mold and a lack of heat before county officials confirmed the home was "not fine." Ford was fired Friday. (Published Friday, Dec. 22, 2017)

    The director of the Family Crisis Center of Prince George's County, which oversees one of the county's only domestic violence shelters for women and children, was fired after unlivable conditions were revealed in the home.

    Prince George’s County officials confirmed Wednesday that the area’s only shelter for abused women and their children failed to meet standards of acceptability, days after residents told News4 they were living without proper heating in a mold-infested home.

    Sophie Ford, the program's director, was terminated Friday. Residents in the shelter had accused Ford of trying to quickly clean up the home before county officials came for an inspection.

    Elana Belon-Butler, the director of Prince George’s County Family Services, inspected the shelter and found conditions below par.

    “Things were not fine,” Belon-Butler said. "We need to make sure that this facility is safe and clean. Not just for the women that are there, but their children."

    “There’s mice popping out of couches. There’s mold everywhere,” one resident said.

    Another woman said she and her daughter have asthma, making conditions at the home scary. Asthma can be aggravated by mold, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

    The mold seems to grow in the bathrooms, kitchens and other areas of the house, according to photos the residents shared. Mold can even be found on food in the kitchen, residents said.

    The house is also extremely cold, multiple residents reported.

    “I cannot even let my kids stay in the room because it’s so cold,” a mom of four kids said.

    Ford, in an interview with News4 days before her firing, denied bad conditions in the shelter. When asked if the home was warm and clean enough, she indicated it was.

    The Family Crisis Center of Prince George's County is a non-profit organization funded by city and state dollars. The city have the shelter more than $300,000 last year. The state of Maryland gave the shelter over $1 million last year.

    A woman who worked for the Family Crisis Center for two years, but was fired one month ago, says the pictures show the true situation.

    “The stuff that they’re saying is true. Those pictures are accurate,” the former employee, Keiyauna Stanley-Gregg, said.

    All of these women are survivors of domestic violence who went to the Family Crisis Center to escape abuse.

    “They’re victims being revictimized. In a domestic violence shelter,” Stanley-Gregg said.

    Before the county inspectors came, residents say the Ford threw out molded food and the trash. Some residents also said someone was shredding paper, and they believe Ford was trying to dispose of evidence they had documented.

    Some residents videotaped the alleged cover-up, and former employee Stanley-Gregg identified Ford in the videos.

    Belon-Butler promised that the county would work closely with the shelter to fix the problems as soon as possible. The shelter has been open since 1993.

    Family Services offered to house the women in hotels if they don't want to stay in the house.

    If you are interested in helping the shelter, you can drop off clothing, toiletries and more at this address:

    Domestic Violence Shelter Help
    Prince George’s County Department of Family Services
    6420 Allentown Road
    Temple Hills, MD 20748