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Nicole’s Story

Nicole was born a fighter.  She was delivered 13 ½ weeks premature, weighing only 2lbs. 3 oz., and had to spend 3 months in the hospital. Standard hospital procedures dictated that babies must nicolebe 5 lbs. before discharge, but the doctors and nurses recognized her strong determination and will to live so she was allowed to go home with her parents at a little over 4 ½ lbs.

Nicole was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at a young age. She describes her cerebral palsy saying her mind is like a computer.  She knows what she wants to say but sometimes it takes a while for her mind to process it and for words to form. “I’m thinking faster than the printer can print,” she explains.

Nicole grew up in Huntington, Indiana and later moved to Florida with her mom where she graduated from high school. She went to Edison Community College (now Florida SouthWestern College) on a Hope Scholarship and then was accepted to the University of Central Florida (UCF) on 9/11. At the time, she only had a manual wheelchair and would have been unable to maneuver around campus as needed. So Nicole’s college acceptance was deferred and she started to do her research on how to obtain help on getting a motorized wheelchair. It took her a year but with the help from family, local businesses, and other caring community members, she got a new wheelchair and started at UCF in August 2002.

It was during her time at UCF, where she received a B.S. in social work, that Nicole learned she needed to be her own self advocate. She went into the disability office on campus one day and was told about Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) by a counselor. The counselor was amazed that a 23 year old did not know about the Med Waiver program or other resources that could help her. She applied and was placed on a waiting list in Orlando and also here in Naples.

Her church at the time, First Baptist of Naples, assisted her in finding housing during the week of Christmas, 2009. She considers her church as her family, especially Mr. and Mrs. Tim Hires.  “I’m very lucky,” says Nicole. “They knew the right people to talk to.” Nicole’s only income was social security so she qualified for section 8, which is a housing voucher program that makes rental housing affordable. 

The tenant with a voucher pays only 30% of their monthly income for their housing costs.  The voucher pays for the remaining balance of the rent.  The section 8 Voucher allowed Nicole to secure an apartment in Naples that she would otherwise have been unable to afford.

Nicole is thriving and is very happy in her home.  She thoroughly enjoys her independence and is very active in the community. She is a member of Foundation for the Developmentally Disabled (FDD) where she writes articles about members. She volunteers with ROOF, the Forward Thrift Shop, and Kiwanis of Greater Naples. She is also a leader at the YoungLife Youth Group, a freelance artist and loves the beach, music and writing.

If you are interested in learning more about housing options for people with disabilities, visit ROOF at flroof.org.