Community of care: A local resident wants to create a co-housing community of caregivers and care recipients
As for care recipients, they too frequently experience problems, lacking avenues for independence and stable passageways into the labor market, Paul Platner said.
The Nevada County resident wants to help both groups by bringing them together into one co-living, and possibly co-working, space.
Platner said he’s been collaborating and meeting weekly with about 20 families interested in establishing a caregiver and care recipient co-housing community in Grass Valley.
“There’s a very strong need for these families to get help from each other,” said Platner. “Families who are caregivers often isolate themselves” becoming so “myopically focused” on providing care they forget to care for themselves.
Julie Zumwalt, treasurer for the Nevada County Association for Developmentally Disabled, is intrigued with Platner’s idea. She first met him last year during a meeting for her organization.
“Full-time caregiving of a loved one with developmental disabilities (and) special health care needs can be very isolating as well as exhausting,” she said.
Platner said most of the interested families want to live in their own studio apartment within a complex of between 20 and 40 homes. He hopes to avoid nonprofits and government agencies, only having family members provide care rather than professionals, unless they are privately hired.
The community – open to any interested participant – is loosely based on the L’Arche communities, which provide support networks, programming and housing for intellectually disabled people. Another organization referenced by interested parties is the Coalition for Community Choice, which aims to provide meaningful work and affordable housing for persons with disabilities.
WORK, PLAY, LIVE
Platner and others have been interested in using the community to provide caregivers and care recipients positive work that embeds itself in the greater community.
Amee Medeiros – who operates the Neighborhood Center of the Arts, which provides arts programming for people with special needs – agreed.
Medeiros said it’s difficult for developmentally challenged individuals to acquire affordable housing, let alone find good, stable jobs. She wants the community to garden, raise chickens and maintain a delivery food program.
That way, she said, people would be contributing to the wider community.
“It would provide everybody a platform to live from where we can serve people better,” said Medeiros.
Platner agreed. He’s pondering the idea of establishing a worker cooperative day center where families provide caregiving for one another, and for those living outside the community as a service.
In general, he hopes to expand everyone’s opportunities, especially as caregivers too often sacrifice their passions and interests due to the strain of providing full-time care.
Platner wants to stop the situation he often encounters where “instead of one person with a disability, now you have two.”
HOW TO DO IT
Platner has been working with Charles Durrett – who successfully constructed Nevada City’s only co-housing community – to help manifest his mission.
Durrett — the coauthor of “Creating Cohousing: Building Sustainable Communities” — said the most difficult part of establishing a co-housing community is finding a specific site on which to build. After that, Platner and his supporters will need to send Grass Valley a letter of intent outlining a plan.
Money, Durrett said, is always a concern. But after configuring the finances, leaders must take time to reflect the community’s subculture in its infrastructure, which can take anywhere from two to three years if it’s able to be constructed at all.
“We employ a very anthropological process,” Durrett said.
If it does come to fruition, Durrett said, the community will allow developmentally challenged individuals additional peer attention and care, and a sense of liberating independence.
“It’s a marriage made in heaven, really,” he said. “Challenged people can reach brand new heights as a result of working together.”
Platner has continued to research low-cost housing options, and is considering starting a GoFundMe to raise funds.
He’s confident that, with support from others, he’ll find a way to complete the project, helping care recipients and caregivers – in addition to appeasing their concerns of who will care for their loved ones when they die.
“I know it’s going to happen,” he said.
Contact Sam Corey at 530-477-4219 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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