Bloomfield’s new supportive housing complex could become a model for replacing group homes in CT

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BLOOMFIELD — The anticipation for the day of moving into the Lavender Field apartments is comparable to that of the first day in a new college dorm or a young adult’s first apartment.

A single orange moving truck idled in front of the side door, which had been left open.

It is the first of many moving trucks to stop in front of the complex of 38 new apartments.

A team of movers hauls a bed frame, mattress, chest of drawers, and an extensive collection of DVDs to a first-floor apartment. It is one bedroom and the windows that line the kitchen and living room face the woods behind the compound.

At first glance, it’s like any other one bedroom apartment – new hardwood floors, updated kitchen, number on the door.

Closer inspection will reveal an extra-wide door, a set of remote-controlled blinds, and a stove with dials and knobs in front rather than behind the burners.

Lavender Field is the second supportive housing complex created by Favarh, the Arc of the Farmington Valley and New York-based Regan Development. Nine of Bloomfield’s 38 units are accessible and supportive units allowing adults with disabilities to live independently in an integrated community.

Daniel Correll was at Lavender Field last week to meet with the moving team. Her brother, Charlie, 61, was the first tenant to move into the apartments.

“He’s ready for the move,” Daniel Correll said. “I think it will be great.”

Movers worked to set up Charlie Correll’s flat, which is one of nine support units, while he worked in Plymouth Spring, where he does light manufacturing work.

Before moving to Lavender Field, Charlie Correll lived in group homes in Avon and North Haven. The group home became his only option after his mother became too old to care for him.

“It’s very difficult for a person with special needs, when their parents get old, what do they do?” said Daniel Correll. “The transition is difficult. The more independence they get, the sooner the better.

Watching their parents grow old can be traumatic for adults with special needs, Daniel Correll said.

“(Charlie) would be like, ‘Mom needs me,'” Daniel Correll said. “He was still hanging on to her.”

Stephen Morris, executive director of Favarh, said the organization’s apartment complexes in Bloomfield and Canton have allowed the closure of two of its group homes.

“The cost of someone living in this Favarh-supported apartment is about one-third the cost of living in a Favarh-supported group home,” Morris said.

At Lavender Field, there are support staff available to help residents like Charlie Correll as needed, but unlike a group home, they don’t need to have a full nursing staff.

Besides the cost advantages, the biggest advantage is the independence of the residents.

“Charlie will be a lot more independent and think for himself a bit,” Daniel Correll said. “He talked about it. He is ready for the move.

Part of the funding for Lavender Field, which is considered affordable housing, came from the low-income tax credit.

Six similar projects with built-in supportive housing are underway in Connecticut. Morris said mainstreaming supportive housing for people with disabilities must start with new developments. He said it was almost impossible to find existing apartments with several empty units that could be renovated to be accessible.

“We try to get our people in at the very beginning before everyone moves in,” Morris said. “Through other experiences, we’ve learned that when we take people in afterwards, it can be perceived as intrusive. But when we take people in first and our people are already there and others are moving in, that’s part of the culture. This improves integration.

Expanded supportive housing options

Although relatively new, the Lavender Field model is starting to catch on in Connecticut. Lavender Field and Favarh’s other project in Canton is the first in the state, but six more are expected to open in the next two years.

Projects in Hartford and New London are expected to open late this year or early 2023.

“It’s really life changing for some of these people,” said Ken Regan, vice president of Regan Development, which is building the Hartford and New London projects.

“They have often lived in an institutional setting or in a group home. Some people live with their family, and as parents get older, everyone is looking for a place to live with some supports, but live independently.

Regan and Morris worked together on a project in Simsbury to expand housing for people with multiple sclerosis. While working on the project, it became apparent to Regan that the need for supportive housing for adults with disabilities was an ever-present issue.

In developing projects like these, there are social and physical construction considerations, according to Regan.

“We have people with developmental and physical disabilities, but we also have 75% of the units for the general population, people looking for apartments at affordable rent,” Regan said. “We need to be able to plan community spaces that will bring people together.”

These projects are funded by a group of state agencies, including the Department of Developmental Services. Kevin Bronson, director of communications, legislation and regulation at DDS, said supportive housing models like Lavender Field will become the alternative to group homes in the state over the next few years.

“This is our agency’s vision for how we plan to support people with housing and supports,” Bronson said. “The ultimate goal is community integration. Group homes will continue to exist. There will be people who cannot live alone in this supportive housing model. But for the most part, there are people who want that.

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