After high school, options for those with developmental disabilities can be limited. The nonprofit Life Enrichment Options is hoping to change that with the expansion of its independent living program into downtown Snoqualmie.
On Wednesday, May 1, members of Life Enrichment Options’s (LEO) board of directors, families, project staff and the mayors of both Snoqualmie and North Bend attended a groundbreaking ceremony for construction of LEO’s fourth independent living house and the first of its kind in the Valley.
The house will be known as the “Nancy Whitaker House,” named after former Encompass president and 20-year LEO board member Nancy Whitaker. Purchased in 2016 and cleared of the previous structure in 2017, the property sits on 384th Avenue in downtown Snoqualmie. The three other Issaquah homes that LEO has built are also named after influential community and board members.
LEO is a nonprofit with the goal of providing housing, education, recreation and to facilitate employment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities. Its independent living program sets up a house for approximately five residents run by a live-in care provider. The first house was built in 2001 in Issaquah.
“There is a great need because there are very few options for people with developmental disabilities as they get older, and the majority of the folks in our community are living at home with their parents,” Whitaker said. “As they age, parents age. We wanted to build homes so they could have a place to live before a crisis occurs.”
There are currently three houses actively running the program in Issaquah, each with five residents and one care provider. The care provider and their family lives on the second floor while residents with disabilities live on the first floor.
The goal of the program is provide adults with disabilities the ability to live independently from their families and become part of their respective communities through volunteer activities or by working jobs either in the city or around the region.
Jiff Searing, LEO board chair for housing, said while the groundbreaking ceremony was held in May, work has already begun on the foundation. The back-filling process in order to meet FEMA floodplain requirements has been complete, and are work is underway to frame the building.
The total cost of construction is estimated at $600,000, Searing said. Much of the work has been completed thanks to donations, and reduced cost deals with subcontractors. Construction company Polygon Northwest has helped by connecting LEO with subcontractors, and the company has given LEO favorable pricing on elements of construction.
“Without those guys, it just doesn’t happen,” he said. “I can’t say enough about Polygon and the designers and the subs they bring to bear to do it inexpensively as they can.”
Once complete, the house must be licensed as an Adult Family Home to perform its intended purpose. That license, Searing said, will allow residents to stay as long as they want.
“The need is huge… there are 5,000 adults with disabilities living at home with aging parents. It’s not sustainable — just a medical crisis and those individuals would be at risk,” he said. “The good thing about the model, once they are moved in they are here for life potentially. This is the same license for the elderly.”
The house is expected to wrap up construction this fall with residents moving in shortly thereafter.
For more information, visit lifeenrichmentoptions.org.