Concord approves independent living facility for intellectually disabled

By SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN

Monitor staff

Published: 06-23-2024 5:06 PM

With approval from the city’s planning board last week, Concord is set to establish the state’s first independent living facility for individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Planning board chair Richard Woodfin praised the project, describing it as “much needed” in the state.

The new facility will transform the former Concord Monitor building on North State Street. Currently owned by Riverbend Mental Health Community Center, the property will soon be sold to Next Step Living, Inc., a nonprofit organization committed to creating housing solutions for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who seek independent living.

The initiative addresses a critical need in the state, where housing shortages are already a significant concern. For individuals with intellectual disabilities, finding appropriate housing is even more challenging.

Michael Dennehy, president of Next Step Living, Inc., said existing facilities tend to focus on medical care rather than fostering independent living for those with developmental disabilities.

“There’s no housing development in New Hampshire that is designed specifically just for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who can live almost entirely on their own with just a little bit of life skills help,” said Dennehy. “It’s more guidance than it is anything else”

According to a 2023 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 4 adults in New Hampshire have a disability, with 13% of these individuals having a cognitive disability.

The three-story building will be renovated to feature 12 dorm-style rooms for adults. Each floor will also include a laundry room, bathroom, and kitchen, providing a supportive environment for residents to live independently.

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For Dennehy, the project is deeply personal. His 23-year-old son, who has Down syndrome, attends Shepherds College in Wisconsin, a school dedicated to teaching students how to live independently while in a supportive environment.

“I would say we’re trying to replicate that model of providing independent living,” said Dennehy.

Currently looking for funding, the nonprofit aims to begin construction soon, with hopes of having the facility operational by January.

To ensure residents follow their schedules, such as getting to work on time, eating meals, and doing laundry, staff will offer guidance while allowing residents the freedom to manage their lives independently.

It has not yet been decided whether the staff will reside in the facility.

The facility aims to build a strong community through activities such as field trips, promoting an enriching experience for all participants.

Dennehy pointed out that the facility’s ideal downtown location provides residents with walkable access to work, restaurants, and grocery stores enabling them to live independently and engage with the community

“The city of Concord in their support has been truly phenomenal,” he said. “So we’re extremely excited to be able to get this project off the ground.”

Sruthi Gopalakrishnan can be contacted at sgopalakrishnan@cmonitor.com