Last fall the District replaced the antiquated computer system it had been using since the early 1990s to enroll residents in food stamps and cash assistance. The new system was supposed to be an upgrade. Instead, as City Paper reported last week, needy residents and Department of Human Services staff have endured months of prolonged wait times as the new system has repeatedly suffered outages since it went live in October. And frustrated members of the public have lashed out physically against DHS employees. “It has been nothing but problems,” says Sabrina Brown, the president of AFSCME Local 2401, the local union that represents DHS employees. Earlier this year, Brown filed a grievance on behalf of DHS employees. Two days after the grievance was submitted, fights broke out at the Anacostia service center. A DHS employee reported the incident in an email obtained by City Paper, which described “a brawl” in which “bottles were thrown at front desk staff.” The message concluded, “I fear for my safety in the waiting area at Anacostia.” And while DHS told City Paper the situation "improved significantly" in recent months, Brown tells Union City that "it's actually gotten worse" and adds that the local may plan a town hall and/or rally soon.
- Excerpted/adapted from a report in City Paper; Illustration by Stephanie Rudig