BROKEN ARROW, Okla. — Moving out on your own is a major step for anyone. It is even more of a challenge when you're autistic or developmentally disabled.
Now, A New Leaf, a Broken Arrow organization is taking steps to help prepare adults with such challenges for a successful transition to semi-independent living.
“$35, $36, $37, $38!” said Katy Lew, counting out money in her Tuesday afternoon independent living course. Managing money is a skill she is learning to take very seriously.
She is one of 8 clients at A New Leaf in Broken Arrow who is in class twice a week to learn some important life lessons.
"One week we did laundry and one week we talked about safety and this week we are talking about money and groceries," Katy Lew, A New Leaf client, told 2 News Oklahoma.
At 59, Katy says she is about to take a big step. She is going to leave her mother’s home and move into her own apartment. Katy said her mom is excited about the plans.
"She says you're ready for being on your independent," Lew added.
A New Leaf is currently building an independent living center in Owasso with apartments for the developmentally disabled.
According to A New Leaf’s website, “The Village is an Agrihood - a community built around a farm. It’s also individualized housing options designed to create a pathway of independence and consistency of care to maximize the personal choice of each person.”
The $20 million project, funded through individual, foundation, and corporate donations, will provide a safe place for them to live with housing for 62 clients and a community home, 5 single bedroom apartments, a transition academy, dining hall, and administration building.
"Some of them live at home right now with their families, most of them live on their own,” said Lindsey Steward, Manager of Philanthropic Services for A New Leaf. “Most of them though this will be the first time that they live on their own in the Village."
Stewart said while many of their clients can afford to pay for an apartment, high rent prices in Tulsa mean the apartment may not be in a safe place. Studies show people who are developmentally disabled are seven times more likely to be abused physically, sexually, and financially.
"So, A New Leaf is providing this housing so they have safe, affordable housing. The ripple effect of that is they are healthier, happier, and more independent," Stewart added.
So for the next several months, twice a week, A New Leaf clients will work hard to plan and prepare for their new homes, as well as the life decisions that every adult must learn to make.
"Should we be spending $100 on shopping? Hmm. Depends on what you need!" Jennifer Pope, A New Leaf program coordinator asked the students during a recent class.
The plan is to be sure they are ready for move-in day and their first step toward semi-independent, and hopefully independent living, in the future.
Katy will tell you she can't wait. "Well, I've already got all of my furniture!"
Most of the clients at A New Leaf hold down jobs and learn to manage their money - or have someone who helps. Administrators are hopeful that the construction of The Village will be complete by May 1.
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