One group of parents in Central New York is pushing to create more living options for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
They founded Smokey Hollow, a Syracuse area project devoted to building a housing development for those adults to be able to have their own apartment among their peers.
A bill recently passed the New York State Assembly allowing adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to have a choice in where and with whom they live.
While the project is in the planning stages and the bill must also pass in the Senate, as their children grow older, having a safe living option for them is becoming even more crucial.
The Jeffery family are involved in the push. If you pay a visit to their home, there’s a good chance that visit will come with a show.
Brett Jeffery loves to sing, and on this day he is singing Neil Diamond’s 1969 hit, Sweet Caroline. Brett also loves to cook. Today’s special is meat balls.
“What are you?” Brett’s dad, Kent, asked.
“An eating machine,” he replied.
Brett is autistic, and while he has difficultly with verbal communication, he and his family make sure he has plenty of ways to express himself and his interests. He uses a text-to-speech software to tell us there are excavators working on a project down the street.
Today is a special day at the Jeffery household, Brett is finished with school and his mom Marilyn said that means it’s time to start planning the next stage in Brett’s life.
“Parents don’t live forever and we need to be sure that he’s safe and has access to the community at large and the things that interest him,” she said.
Jeffrey says it’s a moment of anxiety for any parent of a child with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
She is also part of the group of parents developing Smokey Hollow. The planned housing community that would allow a group of adults like Brett to own their own apartments, complete with appropriate supervision and safety measures.
“What we envision is a place where they continue to have their daily lives out in the community,” she said “Where they volunteer, some hold jobs, they socialize, then in the evening and overnight, they’re in a place where it’s truly their home.”
Ian Coe lives with his Grandmother Laura, he is also part of the Smokey Hollow project, and a student at Inclusive-U at Syracuse University.
“I’ll be able to make my own schedule, stay up late at night and cook my own meals,” he said of the opportunity.
Jeffery says that’s exactly the idea.
“That’s that it comes down to for our kids, choice, sense of community, and safety,” she said.
That means creating a place where Ian can go to bed whenever he wants, and Brett can keep singing those classics.
The bill is expected to be reintroduced during the January legislative session, and the parents organizing Smokey Hollow are currently working on fundraising and securing land as well as a builder.