Increasing friction between boys living in a private contract group home at 1211 Euclid St. NW and area homeowners reached a peak recently when one homeowner threatened to us a sledge hammer to hold off a 15-year-old youth from the home. The woman said the youth had threatened her earlier in the day. Later that evening, the homeowner said, the argument resumed and the youth attempted to come onto her front porch without permission.
The standoff, which occurred June 23, ended when a group home counselor pulled the boy away and returned him to the home. No charges were filed, although the youth was questioned by police and later placed in another home by city social service workers, group home staff members said.
The decision to move the youth was made after the Eucilid Street resident threatened to kill the boy if he returned to the area, group home staff members said.
The resident confirmed that she had argued with the youth and had made the threat because she was afraid. She said she has since sent her two children to live with neighbors and has taken a leave of absence from work "to protect my home."
The incident occurred just two days after a community meeting between several area residents, police and city officials. During the two-hour, emotion-charged meeting, neighbors told officials they had suffered from vandalism, threats and harassment in the two years the Euclid Street home has been open.
Citizens said youths from the home peek into resident' windows, walk across garage roofs, harass visitors and small children, steal and destroy property. they claimed that police and staff members at the home provided little or no assistance when the residents complained about problems.
Unless the distrubances are quelled, or the home is closed, neighbors said they would also resort to violence if necessary.
Spokesmen for the police department and the group home denied that they had not tried to help the neighbors. Police officiers attending the meeting said the complaints were either unfounded or resolved by the time a patrol car arrived.
Group home staff members appealed to residents to sympthize with wayward youth who they described as being socially deprived.
In addition to the boys' home, which provides emergency, short-term shelter [30 days] for homeless boys aged 10 to 17, a similar factilites houses girls a few doors away at 1117 Euclid St. NW. A long-term group home for boys at 2541 13th St. NW is around the corner.
Neighbors said the other two homes were better supervised and employed staff members who tried to work with the community. They contended that this was not the case at the boys' home on Euclid Street, even though that home and the 13th Street home are run by the same contractor.
Following the distrubance June 23, Albert P. Russo, director of DHR, said he met with the resident and staff members and boys at the group home.
Russo said he has instructed DHR official William Barr to meet with the contractor of the home, Daniel J. Nellum of Alexandria, to discuss the problem. Russo said Nellum had a contrac!ual responsibility to meet the needs of the group home youths "in a manner that the community accepts." Otherwise, he said, "the facility is doomed to failure."
If the facility cannot handle youths placed there, it is DHR'S responsibility "to provide more apporopriate placement," Russo said.
In an interview at the home, Nellum said many of the youths viewed their behavior as "prands" and had reacted harshly toward neighbors because they feared losing the home. He said he had arranged to "have the more responsible of the neighbors to come in and explain the way they feel" to the youths.
He noted, however, that a few of the youths sent to the home were unmanageable and needed special supervision and treatment that is not available.
"It's a fact that you do have children who are a danger to themselves and others," said Mary Fraser, the DHR social worker for the two group homes on Euclid Street. Some of these youths reside at the boys' home on Euclid Street, she said.
Fraser said community programs were critically needed to handle youths who need stricter supervision and more specialized personnel than currently are available in the community homes. Otherwise, she said, some youths will continue to act out behavior that even their own families would not tolerate.