For several years, three group homes for the mentally disabled have surrounded Marva Jones' suburban like, Northeast home near Catholic University.
The homes have never presented a problem, she says, because they are well run "and the people in the community have become involved (with the residents). When that happens the (residents) feel wanted."
Dupont Circle resident Harriet Hubbart says residents of group homes in her community haven't been so fortunate.
In the many years that group homes for ex-offenders, homeless youths and mental outpatients have been in her neighborhood, Hubbard says she has seen residents of the homes mugged and abandoned on the streets. And, Hubbard says, at least one resident, a mental outpatient, has been raped three times.
Living in the community is dangerous enough for us, Hubbard says. What protection can be expected for the mentally disabled?
Hubbard brought her concerns and questions last week to a group of persons attending a public awareness workshop on developmentally disabled people.
The workshop for Ward 1 residents is one of two, 11th-hour sessions that will be followed by public hearings on proposed zoning changes that would allow group homes for homeless and mentally disabled people in any neighborhood in the city.
The second workshop will be held with Ward 3 residents from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Cleveland Park Library, Macomb Street and Connecticut Avenue NW. The workshops are sponsored by the Information Center for Handicapped Individuals.
Panelists at the workshop last week included experts from the Mayor's Committee on the Handicapped, the Forest Haven Institution for mentally retarded people and the D.C. Association for Retarded Citizens.
Ward 1 residents were given information about the propblems and capabilities of developmentally disabled and the impact of "mainstreaming" those people in Washington.
At worst, panelists said, mainstreaming would expose outpatients to the same problems of urban long living that everyone has to face, such as crime pollution, sexual attacks, congestion and noise.
At best, they said, it would give the outpatients the same freedoms as anyone else to experience the conditions of everyday life.
What the panelists and residents couldn't settle in their discussion is a question that is being asked nationally: Is mainstreaming the best way to meet the needs of mentally disabled persons?
Donaldo Mosby, assistant executive director of the D.C. Association for Retarded Citizens, discussed the plan for moving residents of Forest Haven, the city's institution for mentally retarded people, back into the community Mosby also presented licensing amendments that DCARC is seeking to have included in the Community Residential Facilities Licensure Act of 1977. The act provides uniform licensing standards for maintenance and operation of group homes.
The act does not cover homes for persons under the custody of the corrections department or homes for persons younger than 18. The licensing amendments propose that both categories of homes be included in the act.
Other requests, relating only to mentally retarded people, essentially reinforce the plan to close Forest Haven and return residents to the community. That plan was presented to U.S. District Court Judge H. Pratt last week.
The amendments suggest that all mentally retarded residents of group homes receive comprehensive evaluations and "habilitation" plans and be restricted to group homes with no more than eight people.