For Dorothy and Reuben Jackson, the Pendleton House in Falls Church was a miracle. For David, their 42-year-old, brain-damaged son, it was an opportunity to become independent and part of society.
Now the Ives House group home, dedicated Sunday by Falls Church officials, can also become a miracle for parents who, like the Jacksons, see themselves growing old with the anguish of not having anyone to care for their retarded children.
Ives House is the city's third residential home for mentally retarded or developmentally disabled adults. The residences provide an opportunity for people who are unable to live independently to receive supervision, training and support in a familylike setting.
Pendleton House, which houses five mentally retarded clients, opened in 1981, and Miller House, dedicated in 1984, is a home for mentally retarded adults who need less supervision.
According to Falls Church Mayor Carol DeLong, it is the success of these two institutions and the progress made by their clients that has lead the city to open its newest home. "Ives House resulted from the knowledge that the need had not been satisfied by the two group homes, and there were people in the church and the city government who knew on the one hand that the need existed, and that this house was in search of a new mission."
Ives House is owned by the adjacent Falls Church Presbyterian Church, which rents it to the city for a nominal fee.
A spacious, Victorian house built in 1954, the Ives House was renovated into a comfortable, bright and airy six-bedroom house designed to accommodate the needs of its future tenants, at a total government cost of about $180,000, of which 60 percent was local and the rest from the state.
Ives, like Pendleton, will have 24-hour counselor supervision; the Miller House, which is run on an independent basis, has a counselor dropping by from time to time. The first floor of the Ives House is designed for mentally retarted adults who are physically disabled.
Janice Schiff, director of residential development of the Fairfax/Falls Church Community Services Board, said she was impressed by the city's teamwork to accomplish these programs. "I think Falls Church is a role model for all jurisdictions, small to large, that when a community is committed to serving all people, they will find a way to provide housing so the mentally retarded people can live like adults in a dignified way."
Ives House is strategically located at 209 E. Broad St., where its tenants can get transportation to work. The residents of the group home receive some Social Security money and work in shelter workshops. All tenants have savings accounts that their counselors help them budget. They are assessed a resident fee on a sliding scale.
The mayor said that there have been few complaints in the residential area surrounding the house. "There were some questions asked at the beginning from the immediate neighbors," she said, but because the other houses created no problems the questioning soon subsided.
Some such as Schiff, who was a counselor for 10 years in a group home, see these residences as the equivalent of a college education for the mentally retarded. "The group home is where they learn to do things for themselves, to integrate out in the community, to negotiate for themselves as an adult and not part of mom and dad's home. And if a parent can arrange that while they are still alive, it is such a wonderful feeling, because when a parent dies, then it is a total trauma."
It was precisely that concern for the future of their son that prompted Dorothy Jackson to call her son's group home a miracle. "He can help prepare a meal, he does his own banking, he keeps control of his money. Socially, he is the treasurer of a social club in Fairfax County, and the group house is the best thing that has happened to his father and me."
David Jackson has been living in the Pendleton House for six years, after living with his parents for 36 years. He works at Mount Vernon Lee, a nonprofit occupational center where he is paid enough to have pocket money and to contribute to his rent.
The Jacksons were lucky when their son was selected to enter the Pendleton House. There is a waiting list of 248 people for the Ives House, which can take only six people. Future tenants will have to be more than 18 years old, mentally retarded, live in Fairfax or Falls Church and meet other criteria.
The Ives House sits with its big open porch looking to a blue sky and an unmowed lawn, shaded by leafy trees, waiting for its tenants.
Said Ramsey Stallman, director of the Falls Church Department of Housing and Human Services: "We want to put beds of perennial flowers around the house, since some of our residents like gardening." Materials for the landscaping will come from local contributions.