At ddm, we have the distinct pleasure of partnering with the West Michigan non-profit organization Georgetown Harmony Homes (GHH). GHH provides quality, affordable living for adults experiencing developmental disabilities. The organization currently houses 24 individuals in four homes in Georgetown Township.
GHH serves the needs of adults who want a safe, supportive home that provides flexibility, companionship and care. ddm’s president, Jordan Buning, serves on the board of GHH and as a result, we’ve developed a strong relationship with the GHH team. We believe in their mission, and we’re committed to assisting the organization through a variety of initiatives.
According to the CDC, 6 million adults in the U.S. live with a disability. Nearly 7% struggle with living independently. GHH meets this urgent need, and because of the high demand for developmentally disabled adult homes, GHH is at capacity. “We receive an average of one request per week from families hoping to place a loved one in a home,” explains GHH Executive Director Art Opperwall. “We have families who have had a loved one on our waiting list for three years or more.”
Opperwall goes on to say that most area adult residential facilities like GHH have waiting lists. “It’s very challenging for families. Those who are very proactive start applying to homes when their child is still in his or her early teens, and the minimum age for admission is 18.
Because of long wait lists, GHH isn’t in need of additional residents, instead Art and his team want to raise awareness of how important it is for the community to support the critical work happening there.
When its first home opened in 2005, GHH made a commitment to raise funds in order to keep the homes affordable for families. Most residents are eligible for some government benefits (most commonly SSI), which go to GHH as rent. “Our total budget divided by the number of residents is about $2,500 per month, per resident,” says Opperwall. “However, the government benefits only average about $900-$1,200 per month. So, we must make up the difference of more than 50% of our operating costs.”
Tammy Schnyders is the mother of an adult who lives at GHH, and she is also GHH’s vice president of the board. “Years ago, there weren’t options for adult community living like there are now. You simply kept your child in the home until you couldn’t anymore,” she shares. “But once these men and women reach their 20s, they want independence. They see siblings and friends going off to college and working, and they want that life too. Organizations like GHH and others in communities across the nation are key to providing that independence.”
Most of the adults who live at GHH are high-functioning individuals. They do their own laundry, cook and help with the cleaning. Many also have jobs or regularly volunteer. “My son loves it,” Schnyders explains. “He has his independence. It’s very healthy and good for him and others to feel like they have control of their own life.”
In this video, Schnyders talks more about the abundant life residents, like her son, have at GHH.