The first four occupants of a group home for the mentally retarded moved into their Cathedral Avenue NW residence yesterday to no visible signs of the concern over their arrival that has troubled the neighborhood.
Instead, the new occupants, Pat, Verdell, Thelma and Edith, were met with hugs, and a welcoming smile by resident counselor Caroline King-Monroe. They were greeted by the smell of a roasting turkey and the sight of a dining table complete with wine glasses and crudites. Barbara, the fifth resident in the first group, joined them last night.
The women, once residents of the remote Forest Haven institution in Laurel, had left their former group home on 13th Street NW for the last time yesterday morning. Their clothing and furniture were moved while they attended sheltered workshops during the day.
King-Monroe said some neighbors have visited, others have offered to host social affairs for the residents and local children have volunteered to perform chores since she moved in about a week ago. Critics have said repeatedly that they oppose the process of opening the residence, but not the home itself.
Some residents of the fashionable Cleveland Park/Woodley Park neighborhood have complained that the house is too small for the planned eight residents, that the city government failed to properly notify them of its opening and that the Joseph P. Kennedy Institute, which will manage the home, rented it at too high a cost.
Monday night, about 20 neighbors attended an Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting to demand that a community advisory board, which will monitor the group home, be selected by the ANC, and not the Kennedy Institute or the District government as proposed. Debate over the issue continued for almost two hours and ended with the matter unresolved.
Dr. Michela Perrone, Kennedy Institute director, said a board of five to seven members will be chosen by the institute's board of directors, the ANC and the city government. Neighbors asked that they and the ANC should have authority to choose the board.
To have the board "designated by the Kennedy Institute and the District government is to be co-opted and we in this community will not be co-opted any further," declared Stephen Caulfield, spokesman for a group of neighbors, and a pioneer in opening rehabilitation homes.
"We feel it would be a travesty to have that board elected by the people we would be dealing with," said NBC reporter Chris Wallace, whose house is adjacent to the group home. "It seems to me a community board ought to be chosen by the community."
Wallace emphasized that feelings about the community board should not be confused with feelings about the home. "I believe there are many people in this room who very much want that home, who believe it will be an enriching experience for ourselves and our children, but have serious reservations" about the way it has been introduced to the community.
"What the community wants is a role to play, if only to assure itself. . . that its concerns at least are considered by the people making the decisions," added former D.C. corporation counsel John R. Risher, who also has declared his support for the home.
The seven ANC members passed a resolution expressing support for the home and its program, but rejected a motion to alter the Kennedy Institute's plan for choosing the advisory board.
"I think that on the issue of the advisory board, the community wanted us to take a position . . . On the whole, the ANC did not have a problem with the Kennedy Institute proposal," said Philip Mendelson, who chaired the meeting.
Mendelson said it is possible that the commission will "support something that is an alternative" to the Kennedy Institute's plan sometime in the future. "We, as a commission, were trying to be as fair and objective as possible," he said.