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September 13, 2004

Contact: Nadine Jelsing, (503) 945-5950

Program contact: Gerald Stolp, (503) 945-9785

New round of grants from Fairview sale help Oregonians with developmental disabilities stay in their own homes


Editor's note: Families who have benefited from the grant money are available for interviews.

The Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) is opening a second round of applications for grant money generated from the recent sale of Fairview Training Center in Salem. Applications will be accepted between September 15 and October 15.

The grants - up to $5,000 each - benefit children or adults with developmental disabilities living in their own home, a family home or an apartment, but not a licensed facility.

Gerald Stolp, manager of the Seniors and People with Disabilities housing section in DHS, says money from the first round of grants earlier this year was awarded to a wide variety of projects including wheelchair ramps, bathroom modifications, assistive technology and equipment - even fences to help keep kids with autism safe in their own backyard.

"Think about it," says Stolp, "if you had to push a wheelchair up and down a flight of stairs twice a day - or if your bathroom doesn't work for you - living in the community might not be a good experience. If you can't transition into the tub or if you can't even get your wheelchair into the bathroom, life becomes a daily struggle. We can make people's homes work better for them."

Fairview opened in 1908 as the Oregon State Institution for the Feeble-Minded. During its existence, the institution went through many changes and was home to more than 3,000 individuals with developmental disabilities at its peak in the 1960s and '70s.

In 1999, the legislature passed a law mandating the sale of Fairview, with the money generated - approximately $15.1 million over six years - used to create the Fairview Community Housing Trust Fund. Earnings from the fund and up to 5 percent of the principal are earmarked for grants.

"This is a big deal," says Stolp. "People with developmental disabilities living in their own homes or families with a child with a developmental disability have extremely limited housing resources available to them. What a great way to use money generated from the sale of an institution - to help people stay in their own homes and live as independently as possible."

DHS reviews the applications and makes funding decisions based on several factors, including how the request addresses the health, safety, welfare or independence of the applicant. During the first round of grants earlier this Spring, $145,000 was awarded to 63 families around the state. This time $150,000 will be available for distribution.

Stolp says he's amazed at how a relatively small amount of money can make a huge difference in people's lives.

"These grants provide a lot of bang for the buck," he says. "Let's say the family needs to replace a bathtub with an accessible shower and the bid comes in at $8,000. If the family can come up with $3,000 in other funding we can supply the $5,000 and make the project possible. Without the grant, the project wasn't possible at all."

All residence modifications must be performed by a licensed contractor. DHS oversees the work from start to finish and can help write a detailed work plan and provide on-site technical assistance, if needed.

"There's nothing more frustrating than having a home that doesn't work for you," says Stolp. "And that's what is so neat about this program. We're helping people feel safe and comfortable in their own home."

Additional information about the Fairview Community Housing Trust Fund and grant application forms are available on the DHS Web site's Disabi‚Äčlities page, under "Food, Cash, Housing & Employment."