L’Arche Greater Washington, D.C., was founded in 1983 on Ontario Road in Adams Morgan. Some of the first core people came from Forest Haven, Washington, D.C.’s notorious institution for people with intellectual disabilities. A second home was opened in 1988 on Euclid Street, just around the corner. L’Arche expanded to Arlington, Virginia, with a home on South Highland Street in Arlington Heights in 2006, and the fourth home opened nearby on South Sixth Street in 2010.
Today, a total of 14 core people and many assistants call L’Arche Greater Washington, D.C. home, and a wide circle has formed around them to become a community of belonging and welcome.
L’Arche was first founded in 1964 when Jean Vanier visited the deplorable institutions where people with intellectual disabilities were warehoused and decided to take action. The first L’Arche home was established in a small house in Trosly-Breuil, France, by Raphaël Simi, Philippe Seux (two men who moved from an institution) and Jean.
A worldwide movement was sparked and L’Arche became an international federation of 155 member communities, established as independent entities in 38 countries on five continents. The communities include more than 10,000 people with and without an intellectual disability, who share their lives in homes, workshops and day programs. Within L’Arche USA, there are eighteen independent communities, of which L’Arche GWDC is one.
L’Arche International received an allegation about Vanier’s behavior in March 2019 and decided to launch an independent inquiry. Jean Vanier passed away in France in May 2019. The inquiry results were released in February 2020 and can be read here. The inquiry found that Vanier was complicit in covering up abuse of adult women and uncovered credible testimony about his own manipulative sexual relationships and emotional abuse against adult, non-disabled women between 1970 and 2005.
The revelations uncovered are shocking and saddening to us as a L’Arche community. We condemn Vanier’s actions. We remain committed to safeguarding all of our community members.