Mission: We are working to build an affordable autism and aging friendly community that will be a new model in appropriate housing choices for adults with developmental disabilities and older adults. Currently there is a lack of appropriate housing options for many of those with autism who need an autism informed community to succeed in the least restrictive environment. Where will we find these neighbors who are interested in being invested in one another in the community? Many of our older adults are seeking to learn new things, desire to do meaningful things, and wish to do it on their own terms. We are interpreting an award winning community model, Treehouse Community in Easthampton, MA that has done this with older adults and families adopting children who have experienced foster care.
With an organization to facilitate interaction and volunteer activities the connections and friendships grow in these communities. Outcomes for both the older adults and the families have shown the benefits from creating long term relationships.
Among the lessons we have learned from the pandemic experience is that isolation and loneliness are harmful and painful. Creating communities with accessible social opportunities is beneficial to all community members.
We are working together with our City of Marshfield Planning Group, and Wisconsin Housing Preservation Corps (WHPC), an experienced affordable housing developer to create the first community of this kind.
We expect this model to be replicated in the future as it addresses the opportunities needed for both our older adults and our adults with autism.
As our population of baby boomers age these models that keep people active and engaged improve the quality of those years and potentially reduce healthcare needs and costs.
Our autism population is estimated at about 2% of the population. Many adults with autism are living with parents over 60 years of age with no clear options for appropriate housing. Their parents won't live forever. There is an autism housing crisis on the horizon.
With our older adults and those with autism there can be a cultivated symbiosis. Some of our adults with autism could potentially help take trash barrels out and back for older adults who can't any more. many of our older adults appreciate company and could learn how to be good company for different individuals on the autism spectrum. Many people with autism appreciate a good listener willing to listen at length, to a deep dive on a subject important to that individual. One does not need to understand all the details to appreciate the person who is delivering it with such energy. It is an opportunity to bring joy and with that to experience joy. So many in assisted living are missing those opportunities. We also believe by keeping people active and engaged they won't need to transition to assisted living.
Results: We are a young 501c3 who got our recognition by the IRS less than two years ago. We have a strong relationsihp with our City Planning Group and our developer and are looking for the appropriate available site for the project.
We have established our bookkeeping and donor management systems. We have attended site duplication training at Treehouse Community in preparation for structuring our interpretation of the model. We are currently in our education campaign raising awareness of the two housing crises on the horizon, those for older adults and those with autism or intellectual disabilities.
We are enrolled in the Nonprofit Leadership Lab online run by Joan Garry that is a wealth of educational opportunities for learning how to build a nonprofit from scratch as well as helping an established one to thrive.
We were awarded a $3,000 operating grant from Gannett Foundation through their "A Community Thrives" fundraising activity.
We have been interviewed by local and regional TV and the links are on our website page.
I heard about this idea of communal living from my son’s former Occupational Therapist in Marshfield, Wisconsin. I believe this would benefit both the elderly and those with special needs. It sounds to me like a win win situation. Trying to find housing for our autistic adult son has been a nightmare. There are too few workers, not enough funding and no places for adults with autism to thrive and live a productive life. If we still lived in Marshfield, we would wholeheartedly support this project!
“Everyone Needs a Community” is a project spearheaded by a number of people in the Marshfield, WI area who are interested in developing appropriate housing for special needs individuals. Since first hearing about it in a presentation at our church, I have been very interested in seeing it come to completion. Although I do not have someone close to me who is in the special needs group, we have had interactions with members of this group and find them to be very able to be a productive part of the community if given a chance. Viable housing options would be one more step in the right direction to assist them with blending into the community and feeling a sense of belonging that is so important to all of us. Being able to be somewhat independent with assistance from those supervising the housing, the individuals will have more potential for growth and development that is not as likely when dependent on family and living in a situation where they may not take as much responsibility for their activities and making new friends. The spectrum of people ENC anticipates serving is wide and varied. This group will need some assistance at times but will likely thrive being with others who have special needs and accommodations. It will allow them to feel more “normal” and prove they have a place in society and can function in a more independent environment. Nadene Lautenschlager
ENC,Inc, stands for Every one Needs a Community. It is a group of family friends of people with autism who are working to create a community that supports successful, safe and independent living for adults with autism.There is a housing crisis for people with autism in the community. Older adults retired or semi retired are often to learn something new,meet new people,do something meaningful and do it on their terms. ENC,Inc is building both a physical and social community that will include affordable housing that will bring people together and facilitate understanding and acceptance of differences, ultimately creating rewarding community lives particularly for those at risk for isolation and loneliness. It will go a long way toward preventing homelessness,improving health and creating a new way of healthy aging for all.