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Three Things You Can Do to Help

Invisible Deaths
The Fatal Neglect of D.C.'s Retarded

Clockwise from top left: Sheila Payne, Fred Brandenburg, Desmond Brown, Gloria Davis, LaVon Green

_____ From Sunday's Post _____
Main Story: System Loses Lives and Trust
Graphic: Scores of Deaths, No Investigation
About This Project: How the Dead Were Found

_____ Follow-Up Stories _____
District to Alter Oversight of Homes (Dec. 6)
Williams Promises Accountability (Dec. 7)
D.C. Official Suspended in Probe of Homes (Dec. 9)

_____ Online Extra _____
Three Things You Can Do to Help

_____ Live Online _____
Post Staff Writer Katherine Boo was "Live Online" on Dec. 6 and Dec. 9.
Dec. 6 Transcript
Dec. 9 Transcript

_____ Previous Series _____
Invisible Lives: D.C.'s Troubled System for the Retarded
March 14: Forest Haven Is Gone, But the Agony Remains
March 15: Residents Languish; Profiteers Flourish
May 4: U.S. Probes D.C. Group Homes

By Katherine Boo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 6, 1999; 7:00 p.m.

Editor's Note: During Monday's live discussion with reporter Katherine Boo, many readers asked what they could do to help. Washingtonpost.com asked Boo for some suggestions.

Three things you can do help:

1. Call Mayor Anthony Williams at (202) 727-2980 and tell him what you think.

2. Volunteer, or lighten your wallet, on behalf of programs that love and respect their disabled clients.

Community of the Ark runs two amazing group homes on a shoestring budget. Contact Leland Kiang at (202) 232-4539 or larchedc@worldnet.att.net.

The Bethlehem House, another shoestring group home, is run entirely on private contributions – no city money – by a committed group of Catholics. Contact Delores Wilson, (202) 526-3222; (301) 853-4560.

The D.C. Special Olympics matter enormously to the city's group home residents – many of whom consider their medals from past events their most precious possesssions. Call (202) 544-7770 to be a part of it. You can make a donation online and specify it should be used in D.C.

3. Be a personal advocate to a resident of one of the city's group homes, helping that resident fight the system to get what he or she needs.

The volunteer advocates program is run out of the D.C. Superior Court. Every ward of the city is supposed to have a such a personal advocate, but only a few do, because of a shortage of volunteers. After a brief training, you'll be matched with a client. Your job will be to visit him regularly and make sure he's okay--and if he's not, make the calls that he can't make himself to get him the help he needs. It sounds simple, but I have seen it make a radical difference.

Just one person watching and caring can save a life. Call the court at (202) 879-1040.

You can also volunteer to be a citizen monitor of group homes as part of the nonprofit University Legal Services' Protection and Advocacy Program. Call (202) 547-0198 or e-mail kbagby@uls-dc.com.

© 1999 The Washington Post Company

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