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Casa Ruby files complaint against D.C. gov’t agency

Dept. of Human Services accused of ignoring anti-trans discrimination



Ruby Corado filed a complaint against the D.C. Department of Human Services, alleging one of its high-level officials engaged in anti-transgender discrimination. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Casa Ruby, the D.C. LGBTQ community services center, filed an administrative complaint on March 29 against the D.C. Department of Human Services, charging the agency with ignoring and failing to stop one of its high-level officials from allegedly engaging in anti-transgender discrimination and retaliation against Casa Ruby.

The six-page complaint, which was drafted by Casa Ruby’s attorneys and signed by Casa Ruby founder and CEO Ruby Corado, says the DHS official in question has acted in an abusive and discriminatory way toward Corado and other Casa Ruby employees while overseeing three DHS grants awarded to Casa Ruby that fund shelters to provide emergency housing for homeless LGBTQ people.

Corado provided a copy of the complaint to the Washington Blade on May 27 in which the name of the DHS official accused of discriminatory and abusive actions is redacted by being blacked out in dozens of places where it appears in the six-page document.

“Casa Ruby’s staff has repeatedly found [the unnamed official’s] demeanor and conduct toward them to be unprofessional, harassing, abusive, and discriminatory,” the complaint says.

“Further, [the unnamed official] has taken actions that are inconsistent with the DHS response to the outbreak of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) by failing to follow COVID-19 protocols and by failing to provide needed testing and other resources during this time, which has endangered the clients and staff of Casa Ruby,” the complaint alleges.

The complaint says the alleged COVID protocol violations occurred when the unnamed DHS official transferred clients from another shelter in which a COVID outbreak may have taken place to one of Casa Ruby’s shelters without having the clients tested for COVID.

Corado told the Blade that as of this week, neither she nor her attorneys with the D.C. law firm Van Ness Feldman have received a response to the complaint from DHS in the three months since it was filed. 
When contacted last week by the Blade, DHS spokesperson Lauren Kinard said DHS would have no immediate comment on the complaint while it is under investigation.

“The complaint is under investigation,” Kinard said. “So, we cannot comment on an investigation.”

However, Kinard said DHS could provide a response to a question by the Blade about DHS’s record of providing funding for other organizations that provide services to LGBTQ people in need.

Kinard said that among the organizations DHS has provided funding for transgender related services is Us Helping Us, People Into Living, a D.C. LGBTQ organization that provides health and social services to LGBTQ clients.

She said DHS also provides funding for the LGBTQ youth advocacy group SMYAL and the LGBTQ group Wanda Alston Foundation for transitional housing services for LGBTQ youth and adults. Kinard said Us Helping Us in partnership with the local group Damien Ministries received a DHS grant to provide employment related services and support for transgender and gender nonconforming D.C. residents.

Kinard said she would also try to provide a response this week to a separate question by the Blade asking about another Casa Ruby concern that DHS is now proposing to reduce its grant funding for the current fiscal year by 50 percent or more. But in an email to the Blade on Thursday, Kinard said the Casa Ruby letter was being reviewed by DHS officials and no immediate response could be given.

In a May 20 letter to DHS Deputy Administrator Hilary Cairns, Casa Ruby attorneys Jacob Cunningham and Ani Esenyn dispute claims by DHS that the funding cut was due to Casa Ruby’s alleged failure to provide a sufficient number of beds at its homeless shelters funded by DHS grants.

“Casa Ruby rejects your modification of the Grant Award, which is in violation of the clear language of the Grant Agreement,” the attorneys state in their letter. “Therefore, this decision is arbitrary, capricious, and not in accordance with D.C. law,” the letter says.

Corado said she believes the proposed funding cut is based on retaliation for the Casa Ruby complaint filed in March.  She said aside from the DHS proposed funding cut, the agency has withheld all of its scheduled grant payments to Casa Ruby for the past four months.

In its March 29 complaint against DHS, Casa Ruby makes these additional allegations and requests for DHS to respond to the complaint:

• The DHS official who is the subject of the complaint has “unnecessarily inserted herself in the management of these grants,” creating tension and making it difficult for Casa Ruby employees to carry out the grant’s emergency housing program.

• The DHS official has failed to adequately screen clients from other shelters that the official transferred to Casa Ruby facilities, some of whom “used homophobic and transphobic slurs and assaulted two Casa Ruby clients.” The complaint says Casa Ruby welcomes all clients in need to its facilities, but it alleges that the DHS official’s “careless transfer of clients from Covenant House inflicted additional trauma and stress on some of the most vulnerable individuals in the LGBTQ community.”

• On several occasions during conference calls and meetings with representatives of other shelters hosted by the DHS official, individuals misgendered Corado, a transgender woman, and the DHS official did not correct the misgendering. The complaint says the DHS official’s decision not to correct the misgendering is a sign of the official’s own anti-trans bias.

“Finally, these and other instances have made it clear to Casa Ruby staff that [the DHS official] harbors anti-transgender bias, in violation of D.C. and federal civil rights laws,” the complaint says.

Among other things, the complaint calls on DHS to consider terminating the DHS official from her position or at the very least, remove her from having any interaction with Casa Ruby. It also suggests the DHS official and other DHS employees be required to undergo bias and sensitivity training related to the LGBTQ community provided by transgender women of color.

Corado said that depending on the outcome of the complaint and DHS’s ultimate response, she will consider whether to file a lawsuit against DHS based on the allegations made in the complaint.

The proposed DHS funding cut for Casa Ruby comes at a time when Casa Ruby has been in negotiations with the landlord of its headquarters building at 7530 Georgia Ave., N.W. in a dispute over who should pay for needed building repairs, including repairs of the electrical wiring system found to be in violation of the city building code.

Corado said an agreement has been reached where the landlord and Casa Ruby will share the costs of the repairs based in part on the terms of the Casa Ruby lease for the building, which holds the tenant responsible for most infrastructure repairs. But Corado said the DHS withholding of its grant funds for Casa Ruby and its proposed cutting of the funds for the remainder of the fiscal year could make it difficult for Casa Ruby to pay its share of the building repairs.


District of Columbia

One trans woman shot, another had legs run over by car in Northeast

November incidents occurred near D.C.-P.G. County border



D.C. police say they are investigating a Nov. 1 incident in which a transgender woman was knocked down on a street by a man who backed his car into her and then drove over both of her legs after he was shot in the arm in an unrelated dispute with another person outside an apartment building at 5920 Foote St., N.E.

The woman, Latisa Moorman, said she spent a month at Washington Hospital Center recovering from her injuries before being transferred to a rehabilitation center for continued treatment of her injured legs.

Police are also investigating a second incident in which another transgender woman was shot in her “pelvic region” by an unidentified male suspect causing a nonfatal injury on Nov. 29 inside the same apartment building. The shooting followed an “argument about a sexual act that was performed and payment of money,” according to a D.C. police report.

The victim of the second incident couldn’t immediately be reached to determine if she would like her name to be disclosed.

Moorman, the victim in the first incident, told the Washington Blade a police detective informed her that the man who hit her with his car and drove away has been arrested. She said the detective gave her the name of the arrested man. But the man’s name could not be found in court records and police have not responded to a Blade request to confirm the arrest.

A police report says police were investigating what they listed as separate cases of the shooting that injured the man who drove over Moorman’s legs as well as the incident in which the man who was shot hit Moorman with his car and drove away.

“Both cases remain under investigation and detectives are actively following up on leads, collecting evidence, and interviewing potential witnesses,” D.C. police spokesperson Paris Lewbel told the Blade in an email. “Due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, we cannot discuss specific investigative steps that have been taken by detectives,” Lewbel said.

The case of the Nov. 29 shooting of the trans woman inside 5920 Foote St., N.E. and the incident in which Moorman was hit by the car outside that same building took place in a location that trans and LGBTQ activists say is known as an area where female trans sex workers as well as trans women who are not engaged in sex work congregate along Eastern Avenue and nearby side streets.

The Foote Street apartment building where the two incidents took place is located at the intersection of Foote Street, 60th Street, and Eastern Avenue.

Less than a mile away one block off the Prince George’s County side of Eastern Avenue transgender woman Ashanti Carmon, 27, was shot to death on March 30, 2019. That case remains unsolved, with no arrest made. About 100 people led by transgender activist Earline Budd held a candlelight vigil one month later in honor of Carmon at the site of where the shooting took place.

Gay D.C. Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Anthony Lorenzo Green, whose district is located near the Eastern Avenue area where trans women hang out, expressed concern that D.C. officials are not adequately addressing the issues related to why trans women are engaging in sex work in that area.

“The angle we come from is the city needs to provide services for Black trans women along this corridor as opposed to constantly trying to arrest them and hoping that will keep them away from Eastern Avenue or away from where they work out of desperation, out of necessity,” Green told the Blade.

“But that has never worked. And we tell them that over and over,” Green said. “These ladies have not been given an opportunity to advance in this city. They’ve been forced to the edges of this city,” he said, adding that the D.C. government “should be bringing social services to that corridor.”

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Bomb threat shuts down Takoma Park holiday drag show

MotorKat evacuated when Tara Hoot was performing



Tara Hoot was performing at MotorKat in Takoma Park, Md., on Dec. 9, 2023, when a bomb threat forced the business' evacuation. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Police cordoned off a popular strip in Takoma Park on Saturday after a bomb threat shut down businesses, including a holiday performance by drag artist Tara Hoot.

MotorKat General Manager Mike Rothman told the Washington Blade that Takoma Park police notified them of a bomb threat to their business around noon.

Tara Hoot was delivering a holiday brunch performance at the MotorKat when the evacuation order came in.

Rothman said they were notified “five minutes into her final performance.” Tara Hoot herself told the audience to leave for their safety.

Police proceeded to tape off the area and evacuated all businesses between Eastern and South Carroll Avenues, including TakomaBevCo, which is co-owned by MotorKat Wine Director Seth Cook.

Cook told the Blade that police brought in “bomb-sniffing dogs” to clear the area before allowing businesses to reopen around 2 p.m.

“The timing is unfortunate as this is one of the busiest weekends before the holidays,” Cook said.

Rothman was also disappointed by the lost revenue due to what ultimately was a false threat, but he was firm that the Takoma Park LGBTQ community is resilient and would continue to thrive despite this setback.

“Takoma Park is a pretty proud and resilient community,” he said. “I don’t expect people to lay down and be scared by this.”

MotorKat and TakomaBevCo reopened for business around 3 p.m.

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Comings & Goings

Jimmy Alexander joins WTOP News as a feature reporter



Jimmy Alexander (Photo courtesy of Jimmy Alexander)

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations, and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected]

Congratulations to Jimmy Alexander who has been hired at WTOP News as a feature reporter. Over the last four years Alexander has been covering stories as varied as the Jan. 6 insurrection to the 17th Street High Heel Race. He has been working as a co-host on the Jack Diamond Morning show on Cumulus Media, Manning Media. On his acceptance of the new position Alexander said, “I’m thrilled that at WTOP News, I will be able to focus on events and people that bring hope to your heart and a smile to your face.”

Alexander is a versatile multimedia broadcaster with more than two decades of experience covering both major news events in Washington D.C., and important human-interest stories outside the Beltway. He is an engaging interviewer with a track record of having compelling conversations with the biggest names in government and show business, from presidents to Paul McCartney. Prior to this he worked as a freelance feature reporter with WDCW50-DC News Now. He is also with Writer-20, Twenty Country Countdown, United Stations Radio Networks. There he developed a concept for a countdown show featuring country music’s weekly top songs on-air and online and prepared weekly scripts for a three-hour show. 

Alexander conducted the only Jan. 6, 2021 interview with “The QAnon Shaman” Jacob Chansley. Since 2016, he has served by request of the D.C. mayor as official host of the 17th Street High Heel Race, the city’s second largest LGBTQ event of the year. He is featured in the documentary “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work,” and is a frequent guest on CNN’s Morning Show “New Day.” He covered White House visits by Queen Elizabeth, the Pope, and the yearly Easter Egg Roll. He also won $10,000 on the game show “Pyramid.” 

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