A proposal by the Department of Human Resources (DHR) to establish a halfway house for 15 teen-age youths on Capitol Hill was rejected last week by local residents in a meeting with DHR officials.
The proposed site, a row house located at 1121 E. Capitol St. SE would have housed some of the 40 youths now detained at Maple Glen, a facility in Laurel, Md., that the city is seeking to close Aug. 1.
The youths are being held under the People In Need of Supervision (PINS) program. As part of a federally funded effort to deinstitutionalize youths at Maple Glen, DHR has located 16 halfway houses, needing one more to complete the task. Failure to find and establish the remaining house before Aug. 1, DHR officials said, could endanger a $1.6 million LEAA grant involving a number of city programs.
The citizens meeting was called by Peter Everleth, commissioner of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B in Ward 6. Five DHR officials, all members of the department's Bureau of Youth Services, were present when the community voted down the proposal, 11-43.
Community argument against the proposal centered around these points:
The house is too small to hold 15 youths and eight staff members;
Ward 6 is too densely populated alreadly;
The area has too many halfway houses and [WORD ILLEGIBLE]
Lincoln Park would not provide an environment conducive to social rehabilitation.
Several Hill residents described Lincoln Park as an area with a proliferation of drug traffic, Prostitution and crime. The house at 1121 E. Capitol St. faces the park. Many neighborhood children also play there, they said.
"Our community has more institutions, is more densely settled and has more problems than any other part of the city," said Dick Wolfe, president of the Capitol Hill Restoration Society. "Until DHR can come back to this community and give a full-fledged open display of equitable distribution of these facilities, I say we should not have one more."
Youth Service's official William Barr, an administrator of the social rehabilitation administration (SRA), said various area sites for halfway houses have already received community approval. Among them, said Thaddeus Taylor, bureau chief, SRA, are houses located at 335 and 337 Ridge Rd. SE and at 2550 Stanton Rd. SE.
While community approval is important, Taylor said, "there are other factors that must also be considered." Included, he said, are occupancy certification, economics and suitability for the program.
Barr said the E. Capitol Street site would have been the last one needed to close Maple Glen and keep the city from defaulting on a justice department program under the Juvenile Delinquency and Prevention Control Act of 1974. The act demands, said Barr, that a city must fully implement its program within two years or else reimburse LEAA for its funds.
If the Bureau of Youth Services plan to deinstitutionalize juvenile offenders is not fully implemented by Aug. 1, said Barr, default could result in the loss of $1.6 million in LEAA funds which would have to be reimbursed to LEAA by the city government.
The funds, Barr said, have been used to implement various programs of the D.C. police department and of the court and correctional department. His department, he said, only received about $200,000 of those funds.
Yet, he said, his department could become responsible for either saving or losing that money for the city.
Though they felt the house was too small for 15 youths, residents said they would not oppose a modified program with six teen-agers. Barr said such a program would not be economically feasible.
"I know that house," said one resident, "and I've got news for you, it's a five-people house at the most. The dining room isn't large. The living area isn't large, and the basement is just that - a basement."
Jimmy Low, a realtor with Chatel C. Millicent, Wise & Gilliat Inc., the agency that sold the house three months ago to District residents Jack Koson and Michael Caine for $117,000, said the house is a three-story building with at least six bedrooms.
Commenting upon the proposed use of the house Low said, "I feel a little concerned about this (the halfway house) since we sold them (Caine and Koson) the house. They told us they were going to live in it."
"It was tentative the Michael was going to live in the house," commented Jack Koson. "He would have lived in the apartment on the lower floor by himself. Then he decided, a couple of months later, that he couldn't do that at this time. A week later we put an ad in The Post to rent the house. Now we already have other plans for it."
"It's not the children (PINS) that are expected to be a problem per se," explained Everleth. "They're no more of a threat than what we already have here."
In addition to the problem with crime, Everleth said the community is fighting against real estate speculators to remain a residential area.
"We want this to become a neighborhood of people who live here - not absentee landlords," said Everleth.
"I have no hostility against this group here tonight," said Barr of the decision. "They had legitimate concerns. A lot of people in this community have been hurt by crime - victimized, burglarized.
"So when you talk about bringing in people with problems, you get the stereotype notion about them, and a certain kind of uncertainty brings rejection.
"Yet it's a frustrating experience for us. You're caught between this liberal movement in the justice system regarding PINS and mild adult offenders, and at the same time you have these conservative forces that say it's all right to put them in a halfway house if you put them somewhere else, but not in my nieghborhood."
Asked what DHR officials would do next, Barr said, "I don't know. Places will come up. We'll make it (the deadline) somewhere."