Picture a Village with mixed residential, retail, entertainment and public space; a Village that attracts local residents and tourists alike because of its inviting design and appealing shops and activities. Picture a community center, an academy, excellent places to eat, meet and have fun. This is Freedom Village!
ProjectFREE will implement a new concept of supportive and community living for intellectually and developmentally disabled adults called Freedom Village that will enhance quality of life through independent living, continuing education, vocational/career development, diverse employment choices, and a safe, self-directed, social life.
Freedom Village will include:
1. A home ownership program
2. A long-term lease/rental program
3. Post – Secondary Trade School/Academy with dorms
4. Retail space for integrated employment
5. Conference / Resource Community Center
6. Offices for Non – Profit Agencies
The residents of Freedom Village will live, work, and play in a milieu that bolsters every individual’s opportunity for a satisfying and connected life; ProjectFREE’s goal is to make these opportunities available to high functioning adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities who have the ability and the desire to be active in planning, directing, and enriching their own lives. The shops, restaurants, and entertainment centers will be self- sustaining businesses. The condos will be state of the art, affordable housing with a mix of owner and renter occupied units. Freedom Village will be on a central artery within walking distance of lively commercial districts and direct access to public transportation and the world beyond.
ProjectFREE will use a Supportive Housing Model as its basis. There is evidence to indicate that a lack of stable housing for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities significantly increase costly interventions in their lives by public agencies (Connecticut Department of Developmental Services). This model builds on a proven and effective means of integrating adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities into mainstream communities by combining affordable housing with services tailored to each individual’s needs. Freedom Village’s supportive, affordable, and permanent housing community will provide opportunities for occupants to have control over their lives and the support to participate in the decisions affecting their community and the larger society. Each individual’s independent living environment will be supported by a program of services including education, employment, and social integration. These services focus on identifying and building on individual strengths, skills and talents so that every person can compete in, and contribute to, their community and society at large.
ProjectFREE will offer Career Development Centers as part of its services. The goal of this innovative component is to offer both first-time job seekers and veteran employees the opportunity to choose their employment and not be placed in jobs. The National Organization on Disability based in Washington, D.C., estimates that about 54 million Americans, 19 percent of the population, have some disability. In a survey completed by this organization, only 16% of those individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who said they were capable of work were able to find part or full-time employment. High rates of joblessness means the American economy loses about $200 billion in taxes and earnings annually, according to the American Association of People with Disabilities in Washington, D.C.
ProjectFREE’s Innovative Career Centers takes vocational training and employment for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to a new and advanced level. The mixed use of self-sustaining businesses and residences will contribute to the vibrancy of neighborhood life and further the goal of integration and independence. Freedom Village occupants will be able to: explore employment choices; develop entrepreneurial skills; and build on peer and social interactions. A unique element of Freedom Village is the opportunity for both first time employment seekers and experienced employees to explore diverse career options in a variety of skilled, wage earning positions. The development of thousands of square feet for commercial use provides the perfect setting for occupants to experience vocational training, career development, including management, and entrepreneurial skills in on-site, commercial, profit -making enterprises. Each person will then make their own career and employment choices. Specialists will help to develop goals, skills and the ability to attain satisfying, competitive employment. Freedom Village will open 40 businesses’ providing choice and a classified employment section for them. This is freedom, this is Freedom Village. No longer will they be placed in meaningless jobs and they will be paid minimum wage during training and will receive scheduled raises.
Freedom Academy: In an ideal world, young adults spend transition, developmental time in a “cocoon” called college. This environment offers a semi-structured world of learning and fun where they feel comfortable taking risks. Freedom Academy will create this same type of environment for young intellectually and developmentally challenged individuals. The Academy will be located in Freedom Village in a freestanding structure that will include dormitory living. Students will study a core independent living curriculum and be offered the opportunity to pursue Trade Certifications as well as basic liberal arts courses. By combining education with hands on work experiences, Freedom Academy students will be able to confidently apply their knowledge in a practical manner. The use of structured support and employment training available to both the Freedom Academy students and to the Freedom Village larger community will strengthen the positive experiences of learning and work, and facilitate the attainment of employment and educational goals. The Academy will include state of the art classrooms, a resource library, and a computer laboratory to assist students in attaining their educational and vocational goals skills. Freedom Academy will individualize each student’s educational process and offer structured courses to address their ongoing academic and vocational needs. To further aid in the process of socialization, social events, such as clubs, dances, game nights and discussion groups will also be establish and open to the community at large.
ProjectFREE’s goal is to acquire property to construct Freedom Village. The building/s will be developed in a community setting comprised of one and two bedroom condominium units. Accessible housing, which will be on the second and third floors, will include condominiums owned by Project FREE and rented or owned by residents of Freedom Village. A percentage of the housing will be utilized to house support staff. The commercial space will span the ground floors of the development.
ProjectFREE is a 501 (c) (3) entity. It is seeking funding through both public and private sources. The principals involved in ProjectFREE are actively seeking United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 811 funding; state, and local funding, as well as support from both private investors and corporate donors. The financial plan allows for three building phases which will be adapted according to the funds secured.
The total estimated cost of 250 supportive housing units with associated commercial and community space is twenty – five million dollars ($25,000,000.). The completed village will consist of attached three story town house style structure (s) including the 250 condominium units, fourteen of which would be section 811 HUD financed. The units will be 1 and 2 bedroom with 650 – 850 square feet of living space. Free standing structures will include Freedom Academy and a Conference Center, with an auditorium/gym, meeting/activity rooms, offices for non – profit agencies, and a kitchen.
Freedom Village is a unique supported housing development that will offer intellectually and developmentally challenged adults who have the ability and the passion to live independently; a life that encompasses career and employment choices; a relevant continuing education curriculum that includes both academic and trade certification; and a connected integrated quality of life beyond the 9 to 5 work day.
It takes the critical mass of Freedom Village to provide the totality of springboard resources to launch and integrate each individual into an independent life beyond the boundaries of its safe, skill-building, supportive community. There is no way that independent living in isolated units or in a small number of supported units within a larger development can provide the opportunities, choices, community involvement, secure future and overall life enrichment that residents of Freedom Village will experience.