Had to share this with you!
I have been following the folks who moved into the May Apartments for over a year. The ups and downs of getting funds to support individuals was hard for them but in the end, they made it!
Director Fenton is quoted and both he and Secretary Dimas visited with the people who moved in that day.
By STEVE HORRELL firstname.lastname@example.org
Before he moved into the newly-expanded May Apartments, just a block over from Edwardsville Crossing, Adam Cooper often found it a hassle to get from where he lived in Moro to his job at the Glen Carbon Walmart.
Now that he has moved into the May Apartments, the trip is quicker and easier and he says that’s just one of several advantages to living at his new apartment.
When he moved in, on Feb. 6, Cooper, who is 32, was the first of a half dozen intellectually and developmentally disabled residents to be integrated into the 72-unit complex. Earlier this year, the Madison County Housing Authority completed an $8 million project to renovate the complex.
“I love it,” Cooper said on a recent weekday morning. “It gives me flexibility during the day. It was a long bus ride to my job here.”
Also at the complex that day was Director of Developmental Disabilities, a division of Illinois Department of Human Services, Greg Fenton, who held conversations in the hallway and allowed himself to be led on brief, informal tours of several rooms.
Footage of the visit will be included in a documentary soon to air on the website “Going Home Illinois.”
Advocates stress that the May Apartments is home to seniors and low-income residents as well as those with disabilities.
It’s a new model for housing, downsizing from institutionalized care to programs that allow people with intellectual and developmental disabilities the opportunity to live an improved quality of life in the community. It’s a model that state officials say they would like to see duplicated around the state, said IDHS Communications Director Marianne Manko.
“I’ll tell you what’s great about this: it’s a win, win, win,” Manko said. “They get to live more independent lives, with more dignity and more privacy.”
Illinois has a ways to go to catch up with the nation’s downsizing trend.
Last year 1,730 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities were being kept at institutions around the state, the third most in the U.S.
The practice costs the state $429 million each year to operate its seven institutions, according to the Going Home Illinois website.
The state, they say, could save $337 million a year by redirecting funds from state institutions to programs that allow people with such disabilities the opportunity to live in the community, the website says.
Manko said the state would “take that money and re-invest it back into the services.”
May Apartments sits across from the Madison County Detention Center, on Bryant Avenue, between Fourth and Fifth avenues. Cooper says it’s his first time living on his own, and his new-found independence has given him a boost in confidence. Manko says the state benefits because residents are able to earn a living, pay taxes, and are provided opportunities they don’t normally have.
Fenton agrees. “When you go through some of these units you see the smile on their faces,” he said. “They can lock their doors. They can say ‘No one gets in here unless I say they can get in.’ It’s that kind of arrangement that all of us want. To be able to enjoy that lifestyle. To me that’s what it’s all about: giving people as much independence and self direction as they can handle.”
May Building is a senior low income housing apartment subsidized by the federal government’s Housing and Urban Development Division.
Similar arrangements have been popping up around the state and country.
The national trend is moving toward self-direction, Fenton said. “Studies show that when people are in less restrictive settings, if someone is in a setting like this where they have their own unit and they’re able to access the community, then you start to see tremendous growth.”
Low-income housing such as what the May Apartments offer isn’t for everyone with developmental disabilities. Some prefer an institutional setting, and actually thrive in it, Manko said. “But they have a right to do otherwise, and what we’re trying to do here is improve their situation,” she said.
Several parents had visited the May Apartments earlier in the day. Some said that seeing their children in a more independent setting made them feel more like they were parenting an adult. “They were like, ‘Well mom, you can go home.’ And they were like crying for the first time in their lives,” Manko said.
Cooper moved from a rural setting near Prairietown, to an apartment where he has better access to shopping at places like Edwardsville Crossing, and to nearby biking and walking trails. And the Madison County Transit District recently added a stop at the May Apartments.
As for Cooper, he’s a big NASCAR fan and his new apartment room reflects it. A friend recently gave him a tire from a car that actually participated in the Indy 500. Cooper’s dad used it to create an end table that sits in his apartment today.
“Now he’s five minutes from work,’ says Missy Kichline, an advocate with The Arc of Illinois, in Alton. “Now he has a social life, he has relationships that he’s developed here.”
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423