The Schaefer Housing Journey Part 1

A guest post by Patti Schaefer

I had the privilege of being invited to a Good Life Network meeting by Patti to hear the story of how the Schaefers went from being a West Side family, to living in the East Side of Cincinnati. I asked Patti if we could share her story here on Cincibility:

This journey began on the West Side of Cincinnati.

After Chris finished high school he worked at Oak Hills School on the Grounds Crew. Chris’s dad Ron and I began thinking of downsizing our home in Delhi and also wanted to provide Chris with an opportunity to have his own section of our home to practice independent living skills.

We moved into a lando-minium in the Miami Heights/Cleves area of Western Hills.  It was pretty remote and very hilly.  At the time, Chris had a job, lots of contacts and enjoyed many social outlets.

Chris had his own living area in the new house that included a sitting area, an efficiency kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and laundry room. With some help, Chris became very good at maintaining his area and a real “whiz” at doing laundry….! Believe it or not, I think the laundry room was Chris’s favorite part of his living space, except for the TV of course. He would even offer to do his friends laundry if they cared to bring it over.

During this time we discussed what we wanted the future to look like for Chris as far as housing was concerned. There was a group on the West Side that intended to build a community type setting for individuals with special needs. The area where it was being considered to be built was near our home, Chris’s job, and was in a good area of town that offered shopping and possible social outlets. At the time we thought this might just meet Chris’s needs when he was ready.

Not long after our discussion, things began to change. The Oak Hills School District, as many other organizations and companies, began to downsize. Chris left his job and, at about the same time, his contacts and social opportunities began to go away as well.

We knew the living facility that was in the planning phase in Western Hills would probably be built, but we were beginning to feel that it wasn’t going to be finished in time to meet Chris’s needs.

Without all of the above, we began to see Chris become lonely and somewhat isolated. Ron and I started attending anything we could concerning housing for individuals with special needs. We got a lot of good information, but also began realizing that we couldn’t count on government waivers to always be available to help us with housing.

After Chris left his job, he began attending Starfire in Oakley. Their program tries to not only include their participants in the community, but they try and wrap the community around the participants.

Between what we had learned in the Housing Sessions and Starfire we began to rethink our situation.

We asked ourselves….”If Ron and I weren’t around anymore, what would life be like for Chris in our current neighborhood?”

We began talking as a family to see what we would like for Chris as an individual living on his own. Here are a few things Chris, Ron and I came up with.  Not just any housing, but housing that will allow Chris:

* To continue the lifestyle he is accustom to and/or how he chooses
to live.
* To live in an area where he feels safe
* To have an opportunity to have one or more roommates or building-mates
* To live in an area where he can use public transportation or be able
to walk
* To live in an area where necessities are easily accessible, such as
grocery stores, restaurants, department stores & social activities
* To live in an area where he already has friends with opportunities
to make more friends.
* To continue to be able to connect with his community.
* To live in close proximity to maintain family connections.

We realized in order to get all these things……..we’d have to move. And for Chris and my husband, who neither had ever lived outside of Western Hills……

This was quite a huge idea to wrap their around.

We started looking at neighborhoods in October of 2012. We centered on the Oakley/Hyde Park areas as they met most of our criteria and already had a few living situations that Chris could be put on the waiting list. These neighborhoods also have apartments and two family homes.

We looked at homes weekly through March of 2013 without finding anything that would work for us. In April we thought we’d better widen our search area.

One Sunday in early April we were scoping out new neighborhoods to consider and stopped at an open house in Blue Ash. It was the first house we’d seen that felt like home as soon as we walked in. We put in a bid and among the six other bids received that day ours was the one accepted. I might share with you that I’m now a firm believer in HGTV’s strategy that a heartfelt, hand written letter to the owner attached to an offer DOES work!

If you are thinking we were crazy……believe me, so did we. We were in a bit of a fog for several days not sure if it was due to buyer’s remorse or just sheer stupidity. AND, we still had to sell our home in Western Hills.

Once we were able to go through the Blue Ash house again we realized, to our “great” relief, that it had everything we needed for a living situation and more. And, the neighborhood seemed perfect. Flat sidewalks, an easy walk to downtown Blue Ash and several people who lived close by that also attended Starfire with Chris.

It certainly looked like a good place to continue our journey for independent living for Chris. The other great benefits were my mother is only two expressway exits away and now we drive 45 minutes less to visit our daughter and her family in Columbus.

As it turned out, we were able to sell our Western Hills house in about 45 days and moved into our new home on June 10th, 2013. Just twelve days after the birth of our first grandson. It was quite a whirl wind time!

In a little over three months after we moved into our new house we purchased bikes, rode the Loveland Bike Trail and enjoyed pedaling on our now “flat” street. Chris is planning to hook up with a biking group and he’s been included in several events.  In the near future, we are meeting with a family that may serve as a community connector for Chris.
And, we attended a block party and got to meet most of the neighbors on our new street.

In hindsight, Ron and I think he and I had also gotten in a rut in our old neighborhood. There was a certain comfort level there with friends and the fact that we had lived there so long. We weren’t venturing into new situations. We’ll definitely still see our old friends. People from Western Hills are used to driving wherever they go, so a jaunt across the viaduct is no problem.

But, now we are taking our clues from Chris. We are getting out and engaging with the community more so, hopefully, we will also have a successful quality of life as we grow older.

Was all this difficult? Well, I won’t lie. It was a lot of work. It still is a lot of work. But, having the potential for a happy, successful, independent life for Chris made the move more than worthwhile.

And while we by no means think we have all the answers yet, we do feel, for us, we’ve made a good, new beginning and are building momentum.


Chris & Friends on the porch of our new house at a meet-and-greet…over 30 people showed up!

Candice Jones Peelman