This summer, the D.C. government is expected to decide whether to adopt zoning changes that would open all city neighborhoods to group homes. But whatever the decision, the city will be under continuing pressure to find group homes for homeless and mentally disabled people.
The pressure, according to one resident testifying before the D.C. Zoning Commission last week, is that group homes "are the fastest growing business in the District of Columbia."
Currently, there are 641 licensed and unlicensed, private and city-run group homes with a capacity for 9,907 people. The city's need, however, is this:
On June 14, 1978 U.S. District Court Judge John Pratt ordered the city to close the city's only public institution for mentally retarded people. Nearly 1,000 men, women and children must be relocated to community homes; 200 must be relocated by Oct. 1, 1978. So far, 58 have been moved. The city proposes to complete the full task by 1987.
On Oct. 3, 1978, U.S. District Court Judge Aubrey Robinson ordered the D.C. Department of Human Resources and the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare to formulate a plan to move selected mental patients from St. Elizabeths Hospital. The hospital has about 2,000 inpatients.
On Dec. 21, 1976, the city consented to a court degree prohibiting the creation of another large public institution for homeless children. In the early 1970s, the city closed Junior Village, the only public institution for homeless children, following a controversy over overcrowding and neglect.
Foster homes are now needed to house about 45 youths each month.