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BEVERLYWOOD, Calif. — It’s a question that haunts many parents of children with intellectual disabilities: Where will they live after I’m gone? A new housing development in the center of Los Angeles will soon provide an answer with the nation’s first residential complex for people with autism, ADHD and other neurodiversities.
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“Fortunately, our society is building much-needed housing for the homeless, veterans and seniors. This is a very good thing,” Schwartz said. “However, we also need housing in various forms and shapes for the varying needs of the underserved intellectual disability population.”
According to the California Department of Developmental Services, 75% of adults with developmental disabilities live with aging family members or caregivers. About 70,000 teens with autism turn 18 each year, according to the Autism Institute at Drexel University, but once they become adults, they are often unable to find well-paying jobs and support themselves.
The idea behind the Village is to create “a nurturing neighborhood where kindred spirits can encourage, comfort and support one another, make lasting friendships, become independent, empowered and confident,” Schwartz said. “A place where support is readily available. A place where size and scale allow services to be delivered effectively and efficiently.”
In the works for over 20 years, the Village will have 64 apartments when construction is complete, as well as 10,000 square feet of retail on the ground floor. Individuals who live in the building will receive skills training and job placement opportunities and be provided with meals, activity rooms, exercise classes and transit access in a building that is staffed 24 hours a day with security.
The Village is based on work by the nonprofit ETTA, which provides services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, including housing, employment training and social services. ETTA was one of several Jewish organizations that approached the Jewish Caucus in the state legislature when California experienced an unexpected budget surplus last year to request funding and make the Village a reality.
“Lots and lots of people came to us with ideas, but very few came to us with the background and the credibility that ETTA has,” California Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) said at Friday’s groundbreaking. “We saw a great plan. We saw that there was a lot of philanthropic support. We saw there was support from a variety of sources, and we said, ‘We’ve got to get behind these guys.’”
The $57 million project at the corner of Pico Blvd. and Glenville is funded with $17 million in private funding and $9 million from the state of California.
“This is why California is a leader — so all the other states can look to us to say, ‘This is what Los Angeles doing, and now we need to do the same thing,’” said Anita Bhatia, executive director of the Ramesh and Kalpana Bhatia Foundation and mother of a neurodiverse 15-year-old. “It really took a village. When you see parents fighting every day for their kids and then you get support from community members and you get political leaders who are willing to fight as well, look at this beautiful thing that we’re creating.”