New Housing Provided for Developmentally Disabled

On Thursday, leaders from the agency as well as other community groups came to a ribbon-cutting ceremony held at one of the apartments at Kings Way to celebrate the apartments’ opening.

“You’re changing lives, but in the process you’re changing the fabric of our community,” said Kevin Roberts, president and chief executive officer of the New Bern Area Chamber of Commerce, as he spoke to leaders who pulled the project together.

The apartments are designed for people who have a developmental disability, but also have the skills to live independently, said Cindy Ehlers, assistant area director for East Carolina Behavioral Health.

She said that people with developmental disabilities can have trouble accessing housing because people may not believe they can live on their own, or because of other discrimination that may occur despite laws set up to prevent it.

“They have a lifetime to live here,” she said, as she stood in the lawn of one of the renovated apartments. “As long as they pay their rent, we’re not going to kick them out because of their disability.”

Monica McFadden, housing development specialist for The Arc of North Carolina, said that one of the duplexes was equipped with a concrete wheelchair ramp, sinks that are open underneath so people who use wheelchairs can roll close to them for easier access, wider door frames, and other features.

The rent will be subsidized at all of the apartments, she said, and people who are eligible to live in them will be charged no more than 30 percent of their income for rent.

“There’s very little housing that’s affordable for even people that don’t have developmental disabilities,” McFadden said.

In addition, transportation, supervision and maintenance services will be provided for the renters by the nonprofit Monarch that works with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental illness or substance abuse issues. Those services will be free for renters, paid by East Carolina Behavioral Health in addition to Medicaid dollars, Ehlers said.

Ehlers estimated that there are about 30 people in New Bern who could benefit from living in the apartments, although the applications will be open for eligible people across the nine-county service area of East Carolina Behavioral Health.

New Bern was chosen as one of the two locations for the project because it is one of the urban areas in the agency’s service area. Ehlers said agency leaders looked for areas that have greater community resources for people with developmental disabilities.

“We have a lot of individuals who need residential opportunities,” she said.

Laura Oleniacz can be reached at 252-635-5675 or at loleniacz@freedomenc.com.

http://www.newbernsj.com/news/apartments-50319-carolina-four.html

By Writer Laura Oleniacz–Sun Journal