Many Hands Lifesharing Community Working to Pioneer IDD Care Outside of Dexter
Many Hands Lifesharing Community has unveiled plans to establish an advanced community for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) in Washtenaw County. This initiative aims to provide a dynamic housing and care environment where individuals of all abilities can thrive.
The organization's Board of Directors has secured a 90-acre piece of land on Baker Road in Scio Township adjacent to Dexter city limits. The vision is to create a unique farmstead community to offer nurturing, familial homes for those with IDD and their caregivers, filling a gap in Michigan.
MHLC points to Washtenaw County housing over 7,000 individuals with IDD, including severe autism. Among them, approximately 1,000 adults need round-the-clock care, either from their families or professional caregivers. MHLC stresses that this demographic faces a dire lack of residential choices, and the wider industry is grappling with a significant shortage of care workers.
Ron Hodess, a member of the MHLC Advisory Board and affiliated with both Miller Canfield Attorney and the Autism Alliance of Michigan, stressed the situation: "The urgent need for an innovative solution for those with developmental disabilities in our area cannot be overstated. The waiting lists for existing communities are tragically long, highlighting the critical necessity of Many Hands Lifesharing Community."
The planned community will house 100 residents, with one-third being IDD adults. The remaining space will accommodate staff living within the community, promoting a "Lifesharing" model. Although new to Washtenaw County, this approach has seen success elsewhere in the U.S. It offers a comprehensive, empathetic approach to care while furnishing affordable housing and professional development opportunities for caregivers.
The Many Hands Lifesharing Community plans are contingent on a larger development getting approved. The 237-acre parcel bordering Dexter’s eastern city limits, known as the “Sloan-Kinglsey property,” is being proposed by owner Dave Lutton for development. A key to moving forward with the project is for a water/wastewater deal to be worked out with the City of Dexter and possible annexation to the city from Scio Township. Discussions between the two municipalities have been ongoing.
Lutton proposes to preserve 111 acres and designate 90 acres to MHLC, which will serve as the organization's residential/agricultural campus. This campus will provide housing and care for developmentally disabled adults, workforce housing for employees, and accommodation for the parents and families of residents in care.
The Baker Road project will offer various facilities to benefit its residents and their caregivers, such as recreational paths, a craft house, an auditorium, a bakery, a therapeutic pool, and a publicly accessible cafe. An organic farm with animals will also allow residents to engage with nature. Over 60% of the land will remain agricultural or natural, incorporating measures for sustainable water management and solar-powered structures.
Many Hands Lifesharing Community has broader ambitions, aiming to serve the larger disability community by providing activities and resources for those beyond its resident population, especially for those above 26 who've transitioned out of school programs. To bolster a connection with the surrounding area, amenities like a cafe, fresh produce, and a petting farm will be open to visitors.
"Everyone yearns to belong and deserves to be part of a community,” expressed Kerry Kafafian, the Founder and Board Chair of Many Hands. “The many social aspects built into our model will nurture this most human desire and foster community while providing residents safety and a greater sense of independence not available to them in the larger world.”
The nonprofit plans to pool public and private funding, leveraging Medicaid funds and private donations, to uphold high care standards and address the direct care professionals' deficit. Collaborations with Brio Living Services and Jan Culbertson are in place for development and sustainability design.
As part of its plans, the organization is gearing up for a fundraising campaign for site work and construction, with the first batch of residents expected to move in by 2025.
For further details or to support this project, interested individuals can visit www.ManyHandsLC.org.