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Naples Daily News: Supportive living home in the works for Immokalee

, liz.freeman@naplesnews.com; 239-263-4778 Published 1:00 p.m. ET June 26, 2017

A nonprofit organization based in Naples that started as a statewide housing resource for adults with developmental disabilities is moving into a broader calling.

Residential Options of Florida, or ROOF, is pursuing a supportive living housing project for Immokalee that will be the first of its kind in the rural farmworking community.

“It’s not enough to be a resource (for information),” Sheryl Soukup, executive director of the nonprofit organization that launched in 2014, said.

There’s simply not enough housing anywhere for people with developmental disabilities, she said.

There are two kinds of permanent supportive housing in Florida: Group homes or supportive living.

The Immokalee residence will fall into the second category of supportive living where each person contracts with their own services, which can be help daily living needs to visiting medical care, she said.

In a group home, residents are tied to what support is offered. If the care is not the right fit, a resident needs to live elsewhere.

ROOF is searching for a three-bedroom, two-bath house in Immokalee to purchase and rehabilitate as a rental for up to three adults with developmental disabilities. The residents will pay rent.

The aim is to have the property identified prior to a July 28 meeting in Tallahassee before the Florida Housing Finance Corp. That’s when the housing finance corporation will review the Immokalee plan and finalize $250,000 for the project, which will be called Independence Place, she said.

“We are not competing with anyone else,” she said. “(The money) is waiting for us. We have to get final approval of our development plan.”

The goal is to have the house ready for occupancy by early 2018, however there are numerous standards, like accessibility, that have to be addressed.

One reason for choosing Immokalee is there is nothing there in terms of housing support for adults with developmental disabilities.

The Immokalee Housing & Family Services is collaborating on the project and provided $5,000 to engage a grant writer and for other project support, said Frank Nappo, chairman of the Immokalee group. He also serves on the ROOF board.

The cost of an existing house in Immokalee is lower, there is nothing for this popuation and the project will work there, Nappo said.

“Immokalee is a very kind place. People watch out for each other,” Nappo said. “We’re pretty excited about the opportunity to do this. We are one of the few groups ready to go.”


Karen Govern, executive director of Foundation for the Developmentally Disabled in Naples, said she has heard of the ROOF project and has a meeting scheduled with Soukup to learn more.

The need for housing of all kinds for adults with developmental disabilities is huge in Collier County, Govern said. She isn’t aware of anything in Immokalee.

Most of foundation’s 230 members live in greater Naples, with about 30 percent living in Golden Gate, Govern said.

A top concern for parents of children and grown children with developmental disabilities is where their children will live after their own passing, she said.

“Close to 75 percent have some concerns about future housing needs,” Govern said.

After the first house opens in Immokalee, the plan is to partner with a developer for new construction projects for developmentally disabled adults in Immokalee, Soukup said.

She acknowledges there are hardships in Immokalee, namely few jobs for adults with special needs and transportation limitations. At the same time, the adults now live in Immokalee with their families.

So far, ROOF has not reached out to Immokalee families with a loved one who could be appropriate for the planned residence yet there has been contact with the exceptional student education coordinator in Immokalee.

“In the fall we will gather information from families in Immokalee,” she said.

(For more information about ROOF, the website is flroof.org. For more information about the Immokalee Housing & Family Services, the website is ihfservices.org).

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