Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Wednesdays with Dorothy: Making the Transition from Group Home to Apartment

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St. Andrew's Episcopal Church
(our offices were in the Parish Hall)
“Hi, Charlie. How you doin’?” Dorothy greeted me as she came into my office. 

“I’m doing fine, Dorothy,” I replied, “How are you?”

“I’m purty good. It’s kinda cool out there today. I took my time comin’ over here. I wanted to wait ‘till the traffic died down before I left the house.” 

This was the day for Dorothy to pick up her Food Stamps. She would always come by the office for one of us to give her a ride down to the Food Stamp Office.  Dorothy lived five or six blocks away from the St. Andrew’s Foundation office. She usually walked everywhere she went and would often come by the office for various things such as help with paying bills, or getting a ride to an appointment.

“Charlie, I brought you and Harry and Edsel some Hershey bars – and they’re still fresh. I just got them this morning.” 

“Thank you Dorothy, that was very kind of you.” I said. “I’ll enjoy that later this afternoon.” 

There were several of our former clients who were living in their own apartments in the Southside neighborhood. They were among the earliest to come out of Partlow State School as a result of the court order in the Wyatt v. Stickney class action lawsuit against the State Mental Health Department. One of the things that made the work of the St. Andrew’s Foundation successful was that our office was not only in close proximity to the group homes, it was also near enough to the various apartment buildings were our graduates, like Dorothy, resided. They were technically no longer under our care, but we had a relationship with them and they knew they could come to us anytime they had a question or a problem. Each of our graduates had a case manager with the state mental health department, but the St. Andrew’s Foundation was there to provide continuing support for them even though there was no financial remuneration. We were essentially providing volunteer services, but it was for people we knew and cared about. They had a history with us and a trust of friendship. It was that relationship that helped them to live successfully in the community.

Toward Independent Living

Before Dorothy and the others were able to move into their own apartments, they had to be taught some basic independent living skills.  After they had mastered those basic skills, they would live in a supervised apartment and would be evaluated prior to moving into their own apartment in the community. In my conversations with Dorothy years later, she recalled those days of transition into the community.  

The Women's Group Home (left) next door
 to the Intermediate  Group Home (right)
“I was at the group home for a few years before I moved into that first apartment.  When I was at 1116 [the Intermediate Group Home], Debbie (she used to live in the group home), she came in with several other people. They started putting down mattresses in the floor. We called Alice (one of the group home staff) and she called Francis (Saint Andrew’s Foundation Director). They told them that they could not stay there. Another time, Elmus came over and they had to tell him he couldn’t stay.”

“When it came time for me and Virginia to move into our own apartment, we were delayed because Virginia wasn’t quite ready, and they wouldn’t let us move until we were both ready. It didn’t work out, because I left her and she couldn’t manage.  I lived there about six months, I guess, before I moved out.”

“When I moved out from the group home and shared that apartment with Virginia, I didn’t like living with her because she fussed and cussed all the time.  I went out and left her; I moved to another apartment with another roommate.  I think I was there about two or three months then I moved in here.  I lived with Virginia in that apartment for six or seven months. Her sister came and got her and took her back home with her.”

*    *    *

Next time Dorothy will tell us about how she found her apartment and what it was like moving into the community.

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