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What Is an Intentional Community?

What Is an Intentional Community?

Communities typically form organically – as people with similar attitudes, interests and goals come together either in clubs, churches, schools and neighborhoods. Healthy communities become extended families, caring about each other and working together to enrich each other’s lives.

Once out of school, adults with developmental disabilities tend to find themselves with no community connections outside their own families. This is the stage of life when emotionally healthy young people feel a natural pull away from their families and into the “real” world. They go off to college, move into their own apartments and begin to build lives and families of their own.

This is an essential step to growing into adulthood, but it is a passage closed to most adults with DD. Some may try, if they are able, to move into their own apartments. But without social supports, they are often more isolated from community than ever. Well- intentioned agencies often create “group homes” where several adults with DD live together with a care giver. Again, this model tends to isolate the group from the “real” world.

Trailhead uniquely intends a community - starting with allocating 50% of the units to neurotypical adults. Because our units will be priced below market rate, we expect these units to attract young professionals who are just getting started on their careers. This is commonly called “workforce housing”. Workforce housing is a huge recognized need in Colorado, where housing costs price out anyone earning below the local median income.

Similarly, there are many active seniors who cannot afford the luxury senior communities that are sprouting up everywhere… but who make too much to qualify for Medicare funded rentals. This is another major group identified as needing help in our area.

Together, these three demographics: adults with DD, seniors and young professionals, will not only all live in the same building, but they will share meals, social events and management of their building. Led by co-officers (one adult with DD working with one neurotypical tenant as Co-Presidents for example) they will be members of a cooperative whose mission will be to create a mutual support system within the building. A senior citizen might offer cooking lessons to a group of adults with DD who in turn assist the senior with carrying in groceries or washing their car. When the call goes out for a movie run, all three demographics will come together to enjoy a film at the local theater (well, once the safe-at-home orders go away!).

The presence of 24/7 staff to help implement these sharing moments will smooth the way and assure consistency in participation and quality of experiences.

Another factor will be a dining room, common area and themed activity rooms where local groups can gather. Imagine a Scout group in one room, a book club in another, music rehearsals in another - all bringing local citizens in and model their own “communities” for our tenants.  Talent Show, anyone?

We simply can’t wait to see the synergy that evolves as the tenants and staff learn to respect and love each other and join together on a journey to become the best versions of themselves.

Posted by
Barb Ziegler, Executive Director
July 23, 2020
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