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This Group of Parents is Building A Group Home for Adult Children With Disabilities

A team of parents in south-central Wisconsin is building their own solution to worries about what would happen to their special needs children as they grew older.

A group of parents in Wisconsin are building an affordable 40-unit apartment complex that will meet the special needs of autistic and other disabled adult children while allowing them to live independently, according to Wisconsin Public Radio. There is no such housing in the state and possibly in the entire United States, so the dedicated parents decided to act on their own.

The specialized housing complex will be known as Home of Our Own, the group behind the project uses the same name.

Mary Anne Oemichen and Susan Wallitsch, two parents with autistic children now ages 25 and 27, respectively, lead the organizers. Oemichen and Wallitsch told Wisconsin Public Radio that they worried where their disabled children, Amy and Frank, would live securely as adults since they don’t have full adult capabilities. Other parents with disabled children shared the same worries.

These children still live with their parents, but the parents know they can’t live with them forever. What if they, as parents, can no longer care for their disabled adult children? How will the children live independently, and who will care for them? Those were the questions mulled over by the group of parents before embarking on a plan to build their children a supportive independent living arrangement.

Home of Our Own Will Be an Integrated Community with Support Staff

Both Oemichen and Wallitsch began meeting with other women weekly at a café to discuss the problem. They have been meeting weekly for six years and they decided, six years ago, to build a residential complex for their children by 2020 by raising grants of $500,000.

The group obtained approval to build the project from local authorities and functions under a Wisconsin anti-poverty organization. They also obtained about six acres of land overlooking the Little Sugar River for the project. An architect helped them with the building designs and now the proposal is fast becoming a reality. The entire construction will cost about $8 million. The group has applied for tax credits which would cover much of the total project.

The group has developed a model based on several principles for the project. The model is that the Home of Our Own complex will be an integrated community where residents of various incomes and abilities will live. The principles are that there will be independence, safety from abuse, affordability and communal living.

There will be kitchens, raised garden beds, walking paths, and other residential amenities to foster integrated communal life. To this end, parents can check on their children and even hold programs at the facility, and supportive staff will be on hand to assist the adult children when needed. It may also be used for  affordable housing for the workforce and seniors since accommodation problems persist in Wisconsin.

Reasonably Priced Apartments Will Reflect the Tenants’ Incomes

Home of Our Own will provide reasonably priced rental units to senior citizens and young workers in need of housing to achieve a diverse and integrated community for children with disabilities living there. But the rent will be scaled to the income of renters, meaning that renters can pay based on how much they earn.

For starters, it is proposed that a one-bedroom apartment will go for $408, $768 and $900, and a two-bedroom apartment will go for $490, $883 or $1,250, depending on income. Three-bedroom townhomes will have a rate of $916 a month.

The Home of Our Own group believes the project can be accomplished. And despite the huge challenges, they forge ahead with their dream. “If we are strong (in the face of the daunting project), it is because our children have taught us to be strong,” Wallitsch told Wisconsin Public Radio.


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