Supportive housing for adults with disabilities to take shape downtown

A proposal before the City of Concord would covert Riverbend’s offices in the old Monitor building on North State Street into dorm-style indipendent living for adults with disabilities.

A proposal before the City of Concord would covert Riverbend’s offices in the old Monitor building on North State Street into dorm-style indipendent living for adults with disabilities.

A proposal before the City of Concord would covert Riverbend’s offices in the old Monitor building on North State Street into dorm-style independent living for adults with disabilities.

A proposal before the City of Concord would covert Riverbend’s offices in the old Monitor building on North State Street into dorm-style independent living for adults with disabilities. Monitor file

By MICHAELA TOWFIGHI

Monitor staff

Published: 04-04-2024 12:27 PM

A lack of housing options forces many adults with intellectual disabilities to live at home with family, while others wait for a spot at a group home to clear. But what’s exceedingly rare and hard to find is independent living.

A new project in downtown Concord aims to provide dormitory-style housing units, with support when needed, for 12 adults.

Riverbend, a community mental health nonprofit, presented plans to convert its current office space, in the former Concord Monitor building on North State Street, into residential apartments to the city’s zoning board on Wednesday.

The organization plans to sell the building to a newly formed nonprofit, Next Step Living, to oversee the project and then provide care for residents.

Each floor of the three-story building will be converted to include four dorm-style bedrooms, a common kitchen, bathroom and living room.

Riverbend currently runs three residential programs in the Concord area. The Twitchell House provides 24-hour care to 15 adults living with severe mental illness within the New Hampshire Hospital campus. On Fayette Street, nine people who are at increased risk of homelessness are housed in downtown Concord. In Boscawen, 19 apartments in the old McKerley’s Nursing Home provide affordable housing for low-income residents who need “moderate levels of support.”

The North State Street project will add to the portfolio of independent living facilities in the area, at a time when staffing shortages plague agencies, putting these services in critical demand.

For adults living with intellectual disabilities, 10 area agencies in the state provide primary care. In Concord, Community Bridges is the certified nonprofit.

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But last year, staffing shortages limited the services the agency could provide, in particular to adults who were living independently. While Community Brides offers community support hours – where staff take clients grocery shopping or help prep for a job interview – the sparse staffing meant that it was often all hands on deck in their residential facilities, leaving these adults behind.

Currently, the agency has two dozen job openings posted on their website from day program support professionals to physical and occupational therapists.

The new living facility from Next Level Living will now help close the gap and provide housing to a demographic that has been experiencing a long-term housing crisis, said Mike Dennehy, who owns a public affairs company, Dennehy and Bouley in Concord.

“You may say to yourself everyone’s experiencing a housing crisis. Well, people with disabilities have been experiencing it for a lot longer, going on 30 to 40 years,” he said.

Without stable, independent housing, these individuals are at a high risk of living in nursing homes or experiencing homelessness, he said.

Since the state closed the Laconia State School, which housed hundreds of people with disabilities, the state has see a movement to support people continuing to live at home.

But now, there’s a large population of adults who want their independence, but may need “a small amount of life coaching along the way,” said Dehenny, who has a son with Down Syndrome.

“These individuals have very few housing options, except for highly regulated group homes with medical house managers which provides services that many in the disability community don’t need,” he said. “Getting lost is this large segment in the middle of the disability community… our goal is to provide this housing for the middle.”