Eight years after he arrived in this country on the Mariel boatlift, Jacinto Recio's home is a red metal bed in a shelter for the homeless in Adams-Morgan.

From this shelter at 1436 Irving Street NW, called La Morada, which in Spanish means "resting place," the 60-year-old Cuban refugee has managed to fashion for himself an organized life of work and dreams for the future.

Every night at 8:30, when most of the homeless men are beginning to pour into La Morada seeking a warm bed and some companionship, Recio dons a clean shirt and heads for Arlington where he works as a kitchen helper in an expensive hotel.

He returns to the shelter 12 1/2 hours later, after most of the men have returned to the busy streets, and catches several hours of sleep. In the afternoon, he usually eats a late lunch at one of the local soup kitchens and visits a local health clinic to pick up his mail or get some medication for a stomach ulcer and arthritis.

"I have no complaints about this country," Recio said in an interview Tuesday night at what is his only home for now -- his single bed, under which are stuffed plastic bags filled with his clothes and other personal belongings.

"This country has given us shelter, food and medicine and they have even tried to teach us English," said the slightly built Recio, who said he has lived at the shelter for eight months because he cannot afford to rent an apartment on his $5.50-an-hour salary.

Despite Recio's harsh existence, he has adapted to American life much more easily than many of the Cubans who came to the Washington area after the 1980 Mariel boatlift that brought more than 125,000 people to the United States, local officials said. There are more than 600 Marielitos now living in this area, the officials said.

Most of the local Marielitos are in no danger of being deported to Cuba under the renewed agreement between the two countries that has sparked riots and violence at prisons in Atlanta and Oakdale, La., this week.

Initially released from the camps under a special immigration status called entrant, many of the Marielitos have become residents and are now eligible for U.S. citizenship. But at least for those in the Washington metropolitan area, their lives remain uncertain.

"There was no machinery set up to receive these people when they arrived here," said Marcelo Fernandez-Zayas, the Cuban-born director of the Office of Bilingual Education in the District school system and a Hispanic community activist. "They were viewed by {most other Hispanics} as criminals and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy."

For the most part, they lead vastly different lives than the majority of Cubans living in the Washington area -- estimated to be 10,000 to 12,000 -- most of whom are professionals and business people who fled Cuba in the 1960s and 1970s.

Many of the Marielitos are single and black, and increasingly they have found themselves isolated from the established Hispanic community that looks on them as social outcasts.

Indeed, many of them are. St. Elizabeths Hospital in Southeast houses 116 Mariel mental patients, and some of them face deportation under the agreement with Cuba, immigration officials said.

In light of the rioting at other centers this week and a past riot by the Cubans at St. Elizabeths in 1980, immigration officials added security guards at the hospital this week to patrol the outside perimeter of the buildings where the Cubans are kept.

The U.S. Public Health Service, which runs the program for the Cubans, also has increased the medical staff, doubling the number of nurses on duty, immigration District Director Robert Neptune said.

In Washington, officials said, 30 Mariel Cubans are serving time at the D.C. Jail and Lorton Reformatory for various criminal offenses.

But one Mariel Cuban, Roberto Valero, 32, an author who teaches at Georgetown University and is pursuing a doctoral degree there, cautions against lumping all of the Mariel refugees together.

"A large majority of the Mariel Cubans have integrated well into American society and are offering many positive things," said Valero, who lived and worked briefly in New York after he arrived in this country before moving to Washington. "There are Mariel writers, painters and intellectuals. Unfortunately, those who make the news are not the ones who have been successful."

The few local statistics available, however, paint a bleaker picture.

Andromeda, a private nonprofit mental health agency for Hispanics in Adams-Morgan, has provided treatment for 525 Mariel Cubans in the last 3 1/2 years, said the center's former director, Ricardo Galbis.

Among this group of patients, Galbis said, 248 or 47 percent were treated for psychological problems; 159 or 30 percent were chronic alcoholics; 155 or 29 percent have exhibited violent and aggressive behavior; and 226 or 43 percent had been incarcerated in Cuba.

Moreover, Galbis said, 153 or 29 percent admitted to having severe feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, 130 or 24 percent had attempted suicide, and four had committed suicide.

Fifty percent of these Mariel Cubans were over the age of 50; 94 percent were male, 46 percent had an educational level of sixth grade or lower and the overwhelming majority were black or mulatto.

"It's not just a question of giving these people a token plate of food but of dealing with a very difficult population that needs all kinds of help," said Galbis. He added that he also knows personally at least 100 local Mariel Cubans who have steady jobs and a place to live.

At La Morada, there are at least six Mariel Cubans who regularly sleep there, said Cecil Malone, acting shelter manager.

"A few of them work and some keep in contact with their families in Cuba," he said.

Jerberto Taltabul, 50, a Mariel Cuban, is a tall man with a bushy Afro hairstyle and a mustache. His eyes are bloodshot and his breath smells of alcohol. He said he has been going to La Morada for several years but that sometimes, if there is no room, he is turned away.

He explained that he has not worked during most of his eight years in this country because he is ill.

Asked what he suffers from, he answered with a grin, "I don't know, the doctor won't tell me."

He said he survives with a special government stipend of $235 a month and $45 in food stamps.

Taltabul said he loves living in this country because he has "freedom." And he does not agree with returning the hardened Cuban prisoners to Cuba. "As far as I know, there are no bad {Mariel refugees}," he said.

Antonio Arbello, 42, who has had a permanent bed at La Morada for the last eight months, said he has lost all respect for this country and does not plan to apply for residency or citizenship.

A light-haired man with intense green eyes, Arbello said his negative attitude began in 1981, a year after he arrived on the Mariel boatlift.

He was picked up by government officials who sent him to the Atlanta prison where he was incarcerated for a year without being charged with any crime, he said.

When he was released in 1982, he said, he was a broken man, drifting from job to job, city to city, without any sense of purpose.

"I was never given a reason and my human rights were violated by the retrograde politics of this country," said Arbello, who said he was a teacher and an electrician in Cuba.

He said his efforts now center on obtaining permission from the Cuban government to travel to Spain to claim some land left to him by relatives. After he gets there, he said, he'll either stay in Spain or return to Cuba.

In the meantime, because he was not approved for U.S. residency and thus cannot collect government benefits, he survives by doing odd jobs in the Washington area whenever he can find work. His most recent job, he said, was cleaning offices.

While Arbello is sustained by his dreams of escape, Recio has another goal: having his wife and 12-year-old son Alain, who live in Cuba, join him in Washington.

Recio said he is encouraged by a section of the renewed agreement with Cuba that would allow 20,000 Cubans a year to join their relatives in the United States.

He already is saving money to pay a lawyer to help him petition for his family members and to rent an apartment once they arrive here.

"I don't want anything for myself, but for my family," said Recio, who has tired eyes and graying hair. "Right now I'm living for my family and I have faith that God will help us be reunited."