On a recent summer afternoon, the sun beat the hard pavement outside a small, white, wood-frame home in Northeast. Overgrown weeds smothered a dirt driveway out back. A new ramp stuck out from the door, awkwardly distinct from the old structure it led to.
Inside, Maurice Hall’s wheelchair hauntingly occupied a dark corner. His 40-year-old mother, Latonia, sat at her dining room table in a red polka-dot shirt, with matching lipstick. She had just cleaned the entire ground floor to prepare for a television interview.
She took a deep breath and looked down with an exasperated gaze. For her and dozens of others, whatever changes the city has made did not come soon enough.
Maurice was shot and permanently paralyzed while riding in the back of a stolen car. He had been stealing cars constantly, she says, and DC YouthLink didn’t stop him.
She says the program never provided promised services, so she could only beg the city to lock him up. But that didn’t happen either. Today, Maurice is in an Upper Marlboro jail, arrested on an old charge.
“It just feels like you’re alone,” Hall said. “You’re trying to get your child help but they just wouldn’t listen.”
“I often say, ‘Could I have done more? What could I have done differently?’” Bob Brown, the aforementioned DC YouthLink visionary laments. “Maybe I should be doing more writing, more speaking, more yelling.”
Brown says now the city must hold those in charge of DC YouthLink accountable. Even if things have improved, they should not get a free pass for what happened in 2010 and 2011. The mayor should also seriously question whether the nonprofits at the helm ought to remain in power, and launch a concerted effort to recoup the public’s money.
Ultimately though, he says the root of the problem goes well beyond this program.
“I hold us all accountable for this. I don’t think anyone is really blameless," Brown said. "Not the young people, not me, not you – we all share in the blame of what’s going on. And I think we all have a responsibility and an obligation to come together and really see how the situation can be fixed."Part 1: A city program's deadly failures
Part 2: Exciting beginnings, bungled implementation Part 3: A lack of services and accountability Part 4: Charges of cronyism Part 5: The city responds - "We are very proud"
Part 6: A call for action