For nearly three months, Tony Bryant has operated a halfway house for mentally retarded adults in behalf of the city's Department of Human Resources. For nearly all that time, the city hasn't paid him for his services.

And today he is scheduled to receive three more residents of Forest Haven as part of the city's continuing move - under court order - of residents out of the institution and into homes like Bryant's.

Bryant says he will accept the three residents, despite his unhappiness at the situation. But he says he worries about the kind of help he can offer them.

"I will try to assess their immediate needs and blend them into what we have and try not to let the chaotic situation between myself and DHR interfere with the delivery of goods and services for their needs," Bryant said yesterday.

Bryant, 33, said he acts as surrogate parent for the men at the house as they try to adjust to life outside the institution where they have spent most of their lives.

Bryant teaches them how to dress, how to prepare meals for themselves, ensures that they get to their jobs on time and introduces them to activities in the community.

Bryant has operated the house, at 1807 Kenyon St. NW. for the last three months while he has battled DHR officials, accusing them of broken promises and of giving him the runaround when he has attempted to find out why he has no pay and no food allowances to the house.

Bryant estimates that the city owes him at least $7000 in back pay, since he has received no pay checks since July although he said he works seven days a week and about 16 hours a day. DHR acknowledges that Bryant has not been paid and cites civil service regulations that make it impossible to hire Bryant.

"You can't count on what you've been told," Bryant said. "It's nothing but delaying tactics and there are living human beings here."

Bryant's problems with DHR began last February when Fred Perry, then acting director for Forest Haven, offered to take over the halfway house program from the local chapter of the Epilepsy Foundation.

The foundation had run the halfway house for three years to allow some Forest Haven residents to live outside the institution, but that grant ended July 1.

Bryant said he believed has salary has been delayed partly because DHR lost the personnel forms he filed in April to become a city employe.

Perry, now a special assistant to DHR Director Albert M. Russo, said no forms were lost. Civil service regulations blocked Bryant's becoming a paid city worker, Perry said.

As of Sept. 17, however Perry said, he had arranged to get Bryant on the payroll by rearranging staff positions that are not covered by civil service rules. Bryant, however, said he was unaware that his problem had been solved.

"I would like to see him paid today," Perry said, adding that Bryant would "absolutely" receive all of his back pay.

Bryant said he particularly needs the health benefits available to full-time permanent employes because his wife is five months pregnant. The couple had been paying her medical bills from their savings, he said.

The Bryants have also dipped into their savings to chip in with other residents in the house to buy food for themselves.

Forest Haven officials sent three shipments of food to the house in July, but Bryant said the good was of "little variety and questionable quality" and he refused to accept the last shipment.

The three residents who will come to live with the Bryants today are among 30 Forest Haven residents who will move into halfway houses around the city today and tomorrow. Sixteen of the 30 are teen-agers.

Their release comes as part of the city's plan to comply with a federal court order in May to begain the deinstitutionalization of all 1,050 residents at Forest Haven.

Bryant's situation is unique because the house he operates was transferred from the Epilepsy Foundation to the city. Other halfway houses that serve DHR either are privately owned and have contracts with the city to provide services, or have been owned by DHR from the beginning.