DC-region group homes with at-risk residents looking forward to coronavirus vaccine availability

Fritz, left, and Liddy do some gardening. (Courtesy Brian Taylor)
Eileen and Alex painting. (right)
Hazel, right, and Alice pick berries. (Courtesy John O'Connor)
Charles, left, and Luke catch up. (Courtesy Brian Taylor)

Four group homes in the D.C. area serving individuals with intellectual disabilities have soldiered through the pandemic, keeping all residents safe, so far.

The precautions are critical because of the COVID-19 risk to people who live in congregant housing and the disease’s high risk of serious illness and death for people with intellectual disabilities.

“The virus has changed our lives; it’s changed how we live. It’s impacted us in so many ways,” said Luke Smith, executive director of L’Arche Greater Washington, D.C.

L’Arche is an international organization that supports people with intellectual disabilities by operating group homes in which assistants, people without disabilities, live like family with core members, those with intellectual disabilities.

COVID-19 is especially dangerous to the core-members.

“If you’re living with the experiences of intellectual disabilities, there’s a high likelihood that you could die because of this virus,” Smith said.

He credits the assistants with keeping everyone safe the past several months.

“The reality of us not having it has been because of the great lengths that our assistants, the people who live and work in our homes, have taken,” Smith said.

Of course, sacrifices have been made. Residents of the faith-based homes have not gone on trips to church, and the pandemic has ruled out visits to the ballpark or having guests for dinner — one of the favorite social activities at L’Arche.

The four group homes have stockpiled personal protective equipment, and assistants and core members are maintaining hope for the days ahead, when a vaccine is made available to those most vulnerable.

“We’re bracing ourselves for what’s to come, in terms of the challenges of making sure the vaccine is accessible to us all,” Smith said. “Despite all of these challenges, we remain a joyful, creative community that’s looking forward with hope to the future,” he said.

More Coronavirus News

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Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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