Freedom Homes Apartments Officially Open

Left to Right: Front Row: HNHC CEO Gina Gehm, HCDDS Superintendent Leia Snyder, Rep. Catherine Ingram, HNHC Board Chair Melanie Beck, Springdale Mayor Doyle Webster, Commissioner Denise Driehaus, Rep. Jessica Miranda, Rep Sedrick Denson. Back Row: OHFA Director Legislative Affairs Guy Ford, FHLB Senior VP Damon Allen, KeyBank District President Michael McCuen, DODD Director Kim Hauck

In collaboration with Inclusive Housing Resources, The Housing Network of Hamilton County officially opened its Freedom Homes development with a ribbon cutting on Friday, January 7.  With the addition of Freedom Homes there are now 12 new apartments specifically designed for those searching for an accessible, affordable housing opportunity in Hamilton County.

The Freedom Homes development consists of three buildings totaling 12 one-bedroom units located across three municipalities.  A four-family building is located on Cottonwood Dr. in Springfield Township, W. Sharon Rd. in the City of Springdale, and Werk Rd. in the City of Cincinnati. 

All 12 units are fully mobility accessible and feature numerous amenities such as extra-large roll in showers, substantial storage, and in-unit laundry hookups designed to uniquely serve those with developmental disabilities. 

“Freedom Homes has been a true labor of love and we are very excited to bring 12 new accessible housing opportunities to the community,” said CEO Gina Gehm.  “We are so grateful to our partners and funders who helped bring this project to life.” 

HNHC partnered with City Studios Architects and Graybach to design and construct these units. Funding was available because of our partners at the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, State of Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, Hamilton County Community Development, Hamilton County Developmental Disability Services, the Federal Home Loan Bank, KeyBank, Cincinnati Development Fund, and the Corporation for Supportive Housing.

Ohio State House Representatives, Catherine Ingram, Brigid Kelly, Jessica Miranda, and Sedrick Denson presented staff with a proclamation recognizing the vision and foresight that became Freedom Homes.  Representatives from several key partnerships spoke during the ceremony and participated in the ribbon cutting.

The most exciting part of Freedom Homes is that 12 more individuals in Hamilton County will have housing that meets their financial, physical and location needs. 

Transitioning to a life of happiness and independence

IMG_0115“I love living here,” says Tina, who shares a home with housemates Carla and Ramona. The threesome has lived together for the past year, and they could not be happier.

Prior to their transition, life was more regimented and certainly more crowded — two of the three lived in a group facility, which housed more than 60 people.

In order for a smooth transition to occur, however, home improvements and modifications were required to make Tina, Carla, and Ramona’s home more spacious, accessible, and safe. Renovations were in store.

BathroomThe Housing Network of Hamilton County, who owns and manages the property, replaced the bathtub. To prevent falls, the nonprofit installed a large walk-in shower with handrails; doorways were widened, and a new door was built to make entry in and out of bedrooms more accessible.

According to Maria, who provides assistance to the three women, the new arrangement has provided Tina, Carla, and Ramona with a newfound sense of freedom, as moving out of the group home has allowed flexibility in their lives.

They now help plan their meals for the week and take on added responsibility by assisting with cooking.

“In the group home, there was no such choice, as meals were planned by the facility’s staff,” Maria says. “The move has also given them more ‘spur of the moment’ type opportunities. If they want to grill out that day, they can just go out on their deck and do it, while living in their previous home, things like that would require time and need to be approved.”

DeliquiaMoving into their new home has also given the three more flexibility when it comes to finances, as well. Instead of paying for the service of living in the group home, they now only have to pay for monthly utilities and food. It’s a much more affordable arrangement for all, and it allows the ladies extra spending money, which they’ve used to beautify their home (they love to keep it clean and decorated), and to purchase things like Halloween candy, which they passed out last year because they wanted to partake in community engagement.

TableMoving into their new home has led to tremendous benefits in Tina, Ramona, and Carla’s lives, Maria says, and the three take a great deal of pride in it.

“If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?” Maria asks.

Tina, Carla, and Ramona’s response: “Right here.”

Finding safety and sense of self in new home

IMG_20160602_175233No one knows how to best care for Shawn and Dusty, both of whom are autistic and require a great deal of assistance, better than their caregiver, Phyllis — a loving mother and grandmother who has worked with the pair for the past 20 years.

Shawn and Dusty made a life-changing transition upon moving into their new home a few months ago, which was acquired and is managed by the Housing Network of Hamilton County. According to Phyllis, the move is the greatest thing to ever happen to the two and can most fittingly be described as “a blessing from God.”

Shawn and Dusty’s old home is one Phyllis describes as being “unsuited for nurturing a safe and caring living environment.” She remembers nights where she would awaken to hear sounds of “pop-pop” and “bang-bang,” as gunfire could be heard on the streets nearby. Shawn and Dusty would often have outbursts, she says, which resulted from the amount of noise brought upon by the neighborhood.

IMG_20160602_175315On top of constant worry regarding the safety of Shawn, Dusty, and herself, Phyllis also had concerns regarding the safety of the property itself. Nightly, she was forced to chain the patio furniture in an effort to prevent theft.

After moving into their new home, however, Shawn and Dusty are living what Phyllis refers to, plain and simply, as “the life.” They are able to spend time outside without having to worry about traffic and violence; the only people they encounter during day-to-day activities are friendly neighbors — perhaps an elderly couple walking their dog — and the home is quiet, which has led to fewer distractions and outbursts.

Shawn and Dusty have acquired a newfound sense of belonging and independence, as they were forced to share their former home with two other housemates. According to Phyllis, the move has positively affected their lives on all accounts. Dusty and Shawn can now feel safe and at peace in their home, and for that, Phyllis is eternally grateful.