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New housing gives adults with disabilities new independence

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) - A new non-profit in Fort Wayne is making independent living possible for some adults with development disabilities. CASS Housing will cut the ribbon on its first home this Sunday. 

Founder and Executive Director David Buuck left his job in 2015 to start the non-profit. CASS Housing got its non-profit status in May 2016 and is already finished with its first house, which was funded entirely by private donations.

"It's surreal to have so many people in the community come forward," Buuck said. 

In 2012, Indiana law changed how people with developmental disabilities get funding for the care they need. 

"Now parents need to turn 80 or pass away before they can get the needed funding to move into a medicaid waiver home, so there's this outcry from this community that they need and want other options for their loved ones with disabilities," Buuck explained.

CASS's first home is a suite style. Half of the house has three suites for the residents to have private living quarters with a common living room and larger kitchen in the middle. Attached to that is a "mother-in-law" suite where the steward, or caregiver, will live. 

"It's more like an R.A. in a dorm setting. More like a safe neighbor. The guys can manage day-to-day life on their own, but they need that safe point of contact. We'll have weekly meals at the house and a monthly outing," Buuck said. 

Buuck and his family will be the stewards for the first house. 

Cameron Shomo, Dylan Wolf and Matt Manor will be the first three people to live in a CASS house. They became good friends playing basketball wtih Easter Seals ARC and now they can't wait to be roommates. 

"We have the same interests and play basketball together. We'll go shopping together," Shomo said. 

Shomo has his suite area all planned out and is looking forward to moving in next week. 

(Watch the bonus video at the top of this story to see Shomo give a full tour of his suite.)

"It has been a dream for everybody to move out on their own and achieve this level of independence that a year ago wasn't even an option on the table. The plan for everyone was to live at home the rest of their lives. Now, in their mid-to-late 20s, they can achieve their life-long dream," Buuck said. 

Shomo, Manor and Wolf all have jobs and residents pay rent to live in the CASS house. Rents range from $300 to $800 a month, depending on their income and disability income. 

"We wanted to create a payment structure that's affordable for everybody," Buuck said. 

CASS will eventually build four styles of housing that will have varied levels of care for residents. Apartment living will offer a little more independence than the current suite-style house. The steward would live in one of the units with five residents each having their own apartment. Then two other levels will provide a higher level of care with daily or 24/7 support. 

"The focus is always on the next project and the folks we can help," Buuck said. 

With 160 familes already on the waiting list in Northeast Indiana, and people from across the state and 13 other states calling to ask how to start a similar program in their own communities, the need is clearly there. 

Next Buuck said the plan is to build three apartment buildings that would be able to house 15 more people. 

The organization needs $300,000 to break ground on the first apartment building, $1 million to start all three buildings and $2 million would pay them all off. 

Click here for more information on CASS Housing. 



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