CSS “Accessible Homes” Joplin Recovery Fund Update

Posted on by CFSWMO

Consumer Beth Coleman, right, and support staff, Chelsey Burleson, left, smile for a photo in the dining room of the new CSS duplex.

Community Support Services of Missouri was one of many organizations directly impacted by the May 22nd tornado. In addition to destroying their main office building, activity center, and transportation vehicles, the storm also affected 119 individuals in their care, 26 of whom required new permanent housing, some with physical disability. In response to this need, CSS purchased a duplex property to renovate for consumers still struggling to find appropriate housing. Partial funding provided by Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri’s Joplin Recovery Fund enabled the necessary accessibility and safety related renovations.

Historically, the Joplin area has never had many rental properties readily available to those with physical disabilities. Melissa Eiken, Resource Development Manager, recalls accessible housing sometimes taking months to find before the tornado. The wake of the destruction merely exacerbated the need for such homes.

The new CSS-owned duplex is a unique addition to the organization; prior to the tornado, CSS did not own housing. The duplex offers CSS consumers the opportunity to live independently in a community-oriented environment suitable to their needs. With half of the duplex renovated, two consumers, Sharon Cros and Beth Coleman, are benefiting from such an opportunity. The two became roommates at the end of May and, after meeting qualifications, moved to the duplex in mid-December. Both appreciate their new home because, as Sharon says, finding an affordable replacement home accessible for her was “impossible”.

Consumer Sharon Cros, right, and support staff Chelsey Burleson, left, display several of Sharon's puzzles.

In the duplex, Sharon and Beth can also conveniently receive necessary support services from trained individuals like support staff and friend Chelsey Burleson. Chelsey, who has worked with Sharon since June says, “We’re just too much alike. We’re having fun”. Sharon and Beth, who frequently work puzzles together, are looking forward to decorating the duplex with a few of their framed masterpieces, many of which feature brightly colored hot air balloons.

Of all the aspects of the duplex though, Sharon explains her favorite is going outside. She is looking forward to the spring and the new deck CSS plans to build on the back of the duplex. She is also looking forward to the possibility of sharing a garden with her neighbors once the other side of the duplex is occupied. Currently, the other side of the duplex has updated safety renovations, and is expecting the remaining accessibility renovations by the beginning of June. Two consumers are scheduled to move in upon completion. In the meantime, this side presently functions as a space for CSS short term community living weekend programs.

CSS is an advocate of Universal Design in the rebuilding of rental properties. Universal Design properties are accessible to both individuals with and without disabilities. CSS hopes the duplex is a starting point for easy accommodation and inclusion for all consumers. Theresa Morgan, Executive Vice President, explains building the duplex was a qualifying need. “The duplex is invaluable. It’s a resort we came to.”

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