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Houses of Hope: Organization provides permanent homes for the disabled

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Bright, fortifying light streams through six-foot windows in the bedrooms of mentally and physically disabled residents who moved in January to their new forever home, a duplex built by Hope House on Young Street in Liberty Hill.

Hope House, a local non-profit organization that provides permanent housing and care for the profoundly disabled, has two other facilities, including its main 16-acre campus outside the city limits and a duplex on Nita Cove. The main campus opened in 1976, and the Nita Cove house opened in 2013.

The Young Street and Nita Cove duplexes are part of a Medicaid program called Home and Community Based Services, which provides 88 percent of daily operating funds for residents as long as they need it.

“HCS was designed to keep people out of state schools,” said David Gould, Hope House executive director.

Erland Schulze, development director, noted, “To qualify, they must live in a local community.”

Eight residents moved from the main campus to the new Young Street duplex.

“I was a little worried, but all of them adjusted,” Gould said. “It is the first time they each have their own bedroom.”

Tall and airy, but a single-story structure, the duplex covers 2,250 square feet, and each unit houses four residents within a similar floor plan. The front door leads into an open space with a living area, dining area and a kitchen. A large handicap accessible bathroom is off to one side, and four single bedrooms finish out the opposite side. Each unit also has its own staff.

The only thing shared is a spacious backyard. “These folks live outside in the sunlight and among the trees – all the things that feed the soul,” Gould said.

Total construction cost was about $400,000. Rockpointe Church, with campuses in Leander and Liberty Hill, donated all the furniture and appliances, said Schulze.

Altogether, the three Hope House facilities accommodate 30 residents.

The organization’s beginnings were in 1966, in a converted garage at the home of Rose McGarrigle.

McGarrigle later passed away in 2003, but her first resident, who is now 57, still lives at Hope House under her legacy of care.

“Unlike for-profit homes or institutions, residents can stay here as long as they need to,” Schulze said.

Also unlike other similar places, where Gould said staff members stay for about two years, the Hope House retention rate averages 12 years among its 50 employees.

“It has to be a life-calling that keeps them here,” Gould said. “We don’t pay them as much as they are worth.”

Daily challenges could test the patience of many. The chronological age of Hope House residents ranges from five to 60-years-old; their developmental ages are from eight to 16-months old. “Some days they are just infants in big bodies, and some days it’s the ‘terrible twos,’” Gould said.

However, between residents who stay almost a lifetime and committed staff members, Hope House offers an atmosphere of home and family.

“This combination makes it not just unique but in demand,” said Schulze.

Hope House gets three or four calls a week from people looking for housing.

“There are not enough long-term homes available in Texas, so the wait list seems unending,” Schulze said.

When it’s a matter of personal mission, it’s hard to ignore the call.

“I’m willing to look at another eight beds, but I think that’s going to be it,”  said Gould, who is in his ninth year with Hope House. “We’ll never have 100 beds like some places. I can’t keep (the residents) all in my heart. We’re going to be a place where everybody knows everybody.”

So, right now, just one more house is part of the vision of Hope House, and they plan to launch a capital campaign in 2018 with a fundraising goal of $500,000.

“We won’t build until we have all the money,” Gould said.

Also, they will most likely build in a community other than Liberty Hill.

“I have to look at where my next employee pool is,” he said.

For those interested in learning more about Hope House, Schulze is available to present programs and information. Contact him at eschulze@hopehouseaustin.org or call 512-515-6889. More details and a video are also available at www.hopehouseaustin.org.

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