Southwinds’ First Barrier Free House

As people age, problems with ambulation sometimes make it increasingly difficult for them to go up and down steps.  Some previously active people may need to begin using walkers or wheelchairs to help with their mobility.  In many situations, these life challenges may result in people having to move from their homes into other homes which are all one level, or which have wide hallways and doors or an open floor plan to make it easier to maneuver their adaptive equipment. The individuals served by Southwinds are facing these same challenges as they are growing older.  We have looked at our current homes with a critical eye to the future and have concluded that a few of the homes will not be effective in helping us to continue supporting our oldest and most medically fragile individuals.

About two years ago, Southwinds’ Board of Directors initiated a capital campaign to raise funds to build or renovate a completely accessible home (termed a “C-1” home, by regulation).  Golf event and craft fair proceeds, private donations, and other revenue totaling about $77,000 has been earmarked by Southwinds for this purpose.  Now we’ve received the wonderful news that our housing source, Residential Resources, Inc. is joining us in our quest.  They have recently received a grant from the Federal Home Funds Program and have offered to use a portion of this money to build/renovate a four-bedroom C-1 house for Southwinds.  Together, Residential Resources and Southwinds have looked at several potential C-1 sites over the past few months and are hopeful that an appropriate site will soon become available.  Residential Resources will then use the Federal Home Funds Program grant to build or renovate the C-1 home, and Southwinds will use our capital campaign funds to upgrade certain features during construction which will further enhance the lives of our individuals (for example, a raised bathtub with a lift for wheelchair bound individuals).

But that’s not all.  Our critical review of our current homes also revealed that while the complete accessibility  of a C-1 home is not necessary for ALL of our individuals at this time , we can better support a good many more of them in one-story homes.  So, as part of Southwinds’ strategic plan, we have also set in motion a plan to vacate some of our homes as their leases come due for renewal over the next one to five years.  And again, Residential Resources has stepped up to help us.  They recently acquired a four-bedroom ranch style home in Bethel Park, and will be using the remainder of the Federal Home Funds Program grant to do some renovations to the home in preparation for four of our Southwinds individuals to move in.  By the conditions set forth by the Federal Home Funds Program, however, Residential Resources must first purchase the C-1 site before any grant money will be released for the Bethel Park renovations.  And so the search for the C-1 site continues in earnest while we look forward to the day when no individual served by Southwinds will find the home environment to be a challenge to his/her mobility.