News Article Details

Dennis affordable housing project near complete

Cape Cod Times - 2/10/2020

Feb. 9--DENNIS -- A planned home for adults with autism, in the works for about six years, is nearly ready for eight tenants who will be selected to live there.

The project, called FORWARD at the Rock, was spearheaded by an advocacy group called Friends Or Relatives With Autism and Related Disabilities (FORWARD) in partnership with the state Department of Developmental Services, Cape Abilities and the town of Dennis.

Dennis voters helped jump-start the initiative in 2015 by authorizing $500,000 in Community Preservation Act funds for the project. Voters also authorized the dedication of 4.9 acres of town-owned land for the housing at 131 Hokum Rock Road.

Local officials recently signed the formal 99-year lease with the nonprofit group, which will be charged $1 per year. The town will continue to own the land while FORWARD retains financial responsibility and oversight of the property, building maintenance and future development.

FORWARD's executive director David Kaplan has spent most days for the last several months at the building site.

"The project's on budget and on schedule," he said.

Accessibility was a top consideration in the design of the two single-story homes, which are connected by a large, shared patio.

"Everything from getting out of your car to coming in the building is exactly the same level," Kaplan said.

Inside, doorways and shower stalls wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs to reachable counters and appliances.

"There is a lot of ease of use," Kaplan said.

A significant amount of soundproofing was also installed in recognition that each bedroom is its own family unit, according to Kaplan.

Each home features four bedrooms, a kitchen, a dining room, a living room, two full bathrooms and a half bath, a small office for staff, a mudroom with individual cubbies, storage space and laundry facilities.

High ceilings and large windows that look out over the treed conservation land give the houses a spacious feel. Small porches invite the residents to enjoy the outdoors.

Cape Abilities, a nonprofit group that serves individuals with a broad range of disabilities, will staff the homes and help with tasks like grocery shopping, laundry and involvement in community activities.

"We are really excited about our partnership with FORWARD, for making this dream a reality, and especially for the residents," said Jonathan Sproul, president and CEO of Cape Abilities. "We want everybody to live as independently as possible, and our role will be to provide the support."

There will be staff at the homes when the residents are there. "The model is they go to jobs or programs," Kathy Ohman, FORWARD's founder and president, said of the organization's staff.

Building exteriors are covered in natural cedar shingles. Inside, the rooms will be painted in a neutral palette.

"We're really happy with what Cape Associates has done," Ohman said.

The builders expect to finish construction in May.

The site is about a mile from Dennis Village, where the residents can attend Monday night concerts on the green, catch a movie at Cape Cinema or enjoy the area's many shops.

"We're forging a relationship with Dennis Union Church," Ohman said. "Their pastor came up with some great ideas."

The state Department of Developmental Services will select the eight tenants from Cape Cod applicants who are eligible for state financial assistance for both rent and services.

Move in is expected to begin in June.

Helping to cover the cost of the project was a $1 million state grant, Dennis' community preservation contribution and community preservation funding from the towns of Barnstable, Yarmouth and Chatham. Private donations brought the total amount raised to more than $2 million.

"The town of Dennis is very proud of this project and to be a regional leader in developing housing for adults with autism, enabling them to live independently and in a safe environment," said Christopher Flanagan, chairman of the Board of Selectmen. "There are many people to thank, but all would agree it is because of FORWARD's President Kathy Ohman's leadership that the project moved forward, and her team even secured (community preservation) funding from other Cape municipalities to get the project over the finish line."

Follow Christine Legere on Twitter: @ChrisLegereCCT.

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(c)2020 Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.

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