An Urgent Need/The Reality
Right now in the state of Maine there are hundreds of adults with disabilities on waiting lists for funding for housing and services. Often when the funding does become available, there are no service providers within a reasonable distance of many rural communities. Here on Mount Desert Island, our young adults with disabilities leave the nurturing, inclusive and stimulating environment of the MDI school system and transition into a void. While their non-disabled peers move on to college, tech schools, jobs and independent living, our young adults with disabilities often remain at home, languishing, with minimal opportunities for developing peer relationships, recreation, and vocational options. Sometimes parents move them into their own apartments, but then must provide all of their support, from meal preparation to medical appointments, from cleaning to social opportunities. Aging parents dread the time when they are no longer around. Who will be there to care for their adult children? Sometimes housing opportunities arise in group homes or apartment complexes for people with disabilities in other communities, often far away, and then the young adults must leave behind the natural supports of familiar communities where they are known and watched over by many, to move to a place where everybody is a stranger and there is no shared history.
A Local Solution to a Statewide Problem
Local Solutions was born out of a desire to address this problem on a local level. It began in 2010 as a grassroots organization composed of parents, educators and community members on MDI who know firsthand the struggles faced by families of young adults with disabilities, and became a nonprofit in 2011. As we researched housing and funding options in Maine, we became aware of how the State’s funding constraints stifle innovation in developing residential and community support options that are tailored to individual needs. We became convinced that we could find a better way. We engaged the community in an educational and fundraising campaign. We formed partnerships and community connections. In particular, we:
- Received guidance and support from the Charlotte White Center, a respected agency with over 35 years of experience providing quality community health and social services for individuals with disabilities.
- Received a pivotal gift in 2013 from St. Saviour’s Episcopal Church of Bar Harbor that really moved our project forward: their beautiful and historical Parish House building which had fallen into disuse over several years.
- Worked with the MDI Ellsworth Housing Authority to secure six Section 8 housing vouchers for this project.
- Partnered with Community Housing of Maine (CHOM), a known leader in Maine with over 23 years of experience in creating supportive housing for Maine’s most vulnerable populations.
- Partnered with Volunteers of America, one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive human services organizations with over 100 years of experience.
- Worked with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that this project would be financially sustainable with state funds into the future.
- Received monetary donations and support from over 350 individuals, businesses, churches and other groups.
The Parish House
After seven years of organizing, advocating and fundraising, our project became a reality with the successful completion of the Parish House.