It has been nearly two weeks since Maple Glen closed. The Laurel, Md., institution once housed 90 per cent of the District's youthful offenders under the People In Need of Supervision (PINS) program. Now youths formerly committed for truancy, disobeying parents and other criminal acts will live in group homes operated or subcontracted by the Department of Human Resources (DHR).
DHR officials said Maple Glen's closing ends a decade-long effort to bring the District's institutionalized youth back to the community.
"Deinstitutionalization is a national thrust in the area of working with People In Need of Supervision," said James Butts, deputy administrator of the Social Rehabilitation Administration. "It's been felt better care might be provided within the group homes."
Seven group homes - four operated by DHR, three with private contractors - will provide 83 places for youths. However two homes to be operated by DHR are still under-going renovations and have not opened. And a third home located at 1375-77 Quincy St. NW remains a source of controversy as local residents continue to seek its relocation.
The Quincy Street group home is occupied by 10 girls, ages 14-18, and operated by Charles E. Coleman under a one-year contract with DHR. Residents of the neighborhood have been trying to close the home, which opened July 28, on the grounds that DHR failed to give the community 30 days notice in accordance with city regulations. Within recent weeks, they have circulated petitions, held press conferences and met with DHR officials to determine why they had to learn about the proposed home in a newspaper. Department officials said a community notice was never sent out because the contract was signed late in the month.
In a meeting this week, DHR officials again met with Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) delegates from the area.
"We presented the total program for the house and talked in a very detailed way to the four commissioners from that area," related Butts. "The administrator of the house (Nettle Powell) presented the program. Once some of the commissioners heard the full program they had a different view. They've agreed to go back and discuss their options (with the community)."
Philip Pannell, ANC official for the area, Ward 4C, said this week's meeting and recent events involving the home have helped to support, rather than reduce, the communities worst fears about the location of the home. Pannell said residents had charged that drugs, a high crime rate and area businesses they regarded as disreputable did not make the home's location a suitable place for troubled youths in need of supervison.
"They've already had four runaways," said Pannell. "Mrs. Powell said, 'You can't expect them to turn around in a couple of weeks. This is part of their history.' She also said, 'If the girls viewed the community negatively they would respond negatively.'
"Nothing was accomplished. I'm not satisfied at all," he said. "I just rode past the house and I had to wait until this car full of men finished talking to one of the girls (before I could move). I'm going to hold a meeting with the community. I don't think they're going to let up."
Leonard Madden, another ward 4 official present at the meeting, said he had encountered similar situations in front of the house.
"It's kind of rough in that neighborhood for girls. If don't take much to go wrong," he sighed.
"We're planning on talking to Councilwoman Willie Hardy or someone at the Corporation Counsel. Until then I think the best thing is for the neighbors to work with them (DHR). But they have to (also) work with the neighbors."
Both Madden and Pannell agree that community input can only take place with cooperation from the home's contractor. But they say that Charles E. Coleman will not cooperate. In an earlier meeting, attended by 100 residents and DHR officials, Coleman refused to talk, Pannell and Madden said. He refused to talk again, they said, when questioned this week about his contract and the identity of members in the Quincy Street Group Home Facilities Corp. he heads. They said DHR officials and Coleman further evaded the issues by telling them to look for their answers in the public records.
"How can you cooperate if when ever we ask a direct question you're told to go downtown and get if from the records?" asked Mary Jarvis, a Quincy Street resident who also attended the meeting. Jarvis said she feels Coleman's reticence will not allow the community to interact with the youths. She also said she felt there were too many group homes in the area and other communities needed to share the responsibility for rehabilitating these youths.
Still one ANC official, who is also a DHR employee, was in favor of the home.
"Franklin Pryor has no hang up about locating group homes for children in any area of the city," said Pryor. "There's no area in Washington, D.C., that shines in gold or silver."
Pryor said he believed the residents were placing too much emphasis on environment and not enough on investigating the structure of the group home program. He said if residents feel the area's enviroment is going to be harmful to the girls "it's not going to be any different for people who have lived there for 10 or 20 years."