Published: October 11, 2011
Even in a down economy, Bridgewell is still building affordable housing for specialized populations. Bridgewell is a leading provider of services to adults with developmental disabilities in eastern Massachusetts.
Right: Bridgewell Program Director Yelena Kharzis with Coolidge Road resident Michael, flipping through a Bridgewell Connections newsletter.
Recently, Bridgewell celebrated the opening of a new home for five people with developmental disabilities and physical challenges in Danvers. The Coolidge Road home is a fully accessible single-family ranch with five bedrooms and an oversized garage to permit easy van access. The structure has been designed to blend into the surrounding neighborhood and meets a high level of medical and equipment needs.
HUD money was used in the construction of the project and also provides rental assistance, to address costs of upkeep. Residents are referred to the Coolidge Street residence by the state’s Department of Developmental Services.Bridgewell was able to complete this project by working collaboratively across a spectrum of private contractors and government entities to expand housing opportunities.
The Salem-based construction firm of James J. Welch and Co., their vendors and sub-contractors, and architects constituted the team that designed and built the home to meet the residents’ specific needs. Contractor Mike Welch attended the open house, along with John Lazar from East Coast Affordable Housing Consultants, and Jacqueline Bond from HUD, which helped to fund the project.
“My worry has always been that people with these physical challenges are sitting in the back rooms of nursing homes, and no one cares,” said State Representative Ted Speliotis.
Left: Representative Speliotis talking with Coolidge Road staff members in resident Sarah's room.
As he looked around the Coolidge Road home, he said, “Today gives us a bit of relief….to see this facility with wide hallways and a kind of structure where people have a chance to have some dignity and a quality of life. This is a special place to have in Danvers.”
In addition to the widened doorways and floor treatments, bathrooms and kitchens have fixtures and appliances of custom size and height, able to meet a variety of needs for residents with limited mobility or extensive medical equipment. The home is also equipped with a generator to cover any power lapses that could affect the ability to support medical equipment. This specialized design and construction allows people who would otherwise be confined to a nursing home to live in community housing.
“We’re all about connecting people with possibilities, and it takes a whole network of connections to build housing of this complexity,” explained Bridgewell President and CEO Bob Stearns. “It is not a simple process, but Bridgewell has a solid track record not only of working with disabled individuals and knowing their needs but also of being able to work in partnership with committed people in the public and private sectors, all of which has brought us to where we are today.”
“A project like this meets a social need and also adds to the local economy and job creation,” said Bridgewell Director of Housing Elaine White, noting the satisfaction of being able to work collaboratively and accomplish something of great significance to the community.
Right: Coolidge Road resident Meaghan with her parents Brian and Teddi O'Keefe.
“When individuals come here, they enjoy a more homelike atmosphere, and they may very well still be here into their ‘80’s. It’s their home for good,” added Stearns.