New living space delights group home residents
Joanna Chen hugged her beloved Cabbage Patch Kid doll as she reveled in her new, private living space above the garage of Reach Unlimited’s recently-opened group home.
The Chen family was glad to see their daughter Joanna Chen, 38, receive a fresh start.
Reach Unlimited, an organization providing support services for intellectually and developmentally disabled individuals, held a Chinese New Year-themed ribbon cutting on Feb. 4 for their 24th group home in the northwest Houston-area.
The home will house three of their clients along with 24-hour staff of professional caretakers hired by the organization.
Group home residents hosted the event, which was coordinated in partnership with the Cy-Fair Houston Chamber of Commerce.
Verna Noack, donor and communications relations manager for Reach Unlimited, said the new home is a step forward for Reach Unlimited considering the amount of time put into acquiring a house and matching residents together properly. The two-story house features an indoor patio, a large living room and separate rooms for each resident.
“It’s about a $55,000 to $60,000 investment just to get a home up and running,” she said. “It’s like putting a family together. Folks who say they’re interested in care within the organization, we certainly will place them on the waiting list. However, that doesn’t mean they’re going to quit looking because if they need a place for their folks with special needs, they have to continue to look.”
Joanna Chen, resident and client of Reach Unlimited, lives in the home in her own separate apartment upstairs with a bedroom, living room and a kitchen, although the appliances are unplugged to encourage her to eat downstairs. Ying Chen said the home is a great place for her daughter.
“We’re just extremely lucky that they found this place where she’s in a situation where she can be in her own space,” she said. “But, then there’s always people downstairs so she can go socialize if she wants to.”
Noack said each group home is built near the Reach Unlimited Learning Activity Center — the space where clients, learn, work and participate in activities — so clients can reach the location easier. Meals and activities at home are handled by in-house caregivers, she said. As of Jan. 2019, Reach Unlimited has 300 clients and 160 clients on the waiting list for a group home.
Chen said the decision to give her daughter a separate, independent space works well due to her daughter’s high functionality and energy.
“She’s so high-functioning at times that people have certain expectations for her that she cannot achieve and she gets frustrated with herself,” Chen said. “Sometimes you can maybe have a bunch of high-functioning people together and they may get along well and it’s great. But it doesn’t always work that way because you can have high-functioning people, but if there are different needs, it can clash.”
Carlton Chen, Joanna Chen’s father, said he is thankful for Reach Unlimited getting Joanna into a home fit for her needs. Ying Chen said Reach Unlimited made sure they found a home with a separate apartment after the owner of Joanna Chen’s previous home was sold.
The Chens’ daughter had trouble at previous group homes as well, including encounters with violence and mistreatment, she said.
Joanna Chen said she is happy to have her own separate apartment where she can be herself and play with her Cabbage Patch Kids, including one she has had since childhood. She said she was glad to celebrate the group home’s ribbon cutting with guests the day before Chinese New Year, a holiday dear to her as a Chinese-American.
“My favorite part is my isolation,” she said. “I love being isolated, but when it comes to my friends, I love my friends no matter what.”