Nonprofit remodels home for 3 men with developmental disabilities who couldn’t afford rising rents

Members of Friends of Johnson County Developmental Supports, from left, Tammy Brooks, Susie Swanson, Janel Bowers and Alayna Chipman, joined the community in celebrating the completion of the nonprofit's 17th affordable, accessible house (this one's in Overland Park). The three men who will live there receive services from Johnson County Developmental Supports. Photo credit Leah Wankum.

While a local group of volunteers put the finishing touches on an affordable, accessible home in Overland Park, the new residents dropped by for a visit.

They were over the moon in their surprise and delight for their new home.

“Oh my gosh, I love this house,” said Joe. “I love my room. I love my ceiling fan. Oh, it’s so gorgeous.”

Joe was talking to Janel Bowers, chief development and operations officer for Friends of Johnson County Developmental Supports.

The nonprofit remodels old homes in Johnson County to make them more accessible for adults with developmental disabilities. This often entails making doorways wider and adding continuous flooring and other measures to make each home possible for the tenants to age in place.

The group just completed its 16th home in May.

“Joe was beside himself,” Bowers said. “It means that we’re doing the right thing. I can have the worst day, a day where everything was a no, and that takes that all away.”

Friends of JCDS also adds customized touches for each resident’s bedroom to match their preferences.

Joe to a room painted in “safety mask” blues.

Meanwhile, Andy wanted a Kansas State University-themed room. And Ricky likes the Kansas City Chiefs. The trio are set to move into their new home in Overland Park in early November.

Friends of JCDS only offered the first names of the tenants to keep their privacy.

The renters can also enjoy a new back patio with a bit of gardening.

Bowers said construction on the latest house remodel started in June, and volunteers have been working to find customized features and furnishings for the tenants. The bulk of work wrapped up last week.

“Neighborhoods that are diverse are better,” Bowers said. “Neighbors have stopped by and said, ‘Oh thank you so much, it hadn’t been painted, it hadn’t been taken care of. And now I like living next to you.’”

Priced out of apartment

Joe, Andy and Ricky had been living in an apartment in Lenexa, but Bowers said rent increased and went out of their price range.

“It’s also not particularly accessible,” Bowers added. “We want to make sure people have room for their mobility devices to function.”

Volunteers participated in a day of preparations and maintenance earlier this month. Photo via Friends of JCDS’ Facebook page.

The Overland Park home for the three men is Friends of JCDS’ 17th remodeled home, and the group officially celebrated the milestone on Monday.

With three bedrooms and two bathrooms, the home has a ramp entrance, rooms that any wheelchair can fit into and other accessible amenities.

Rent remains affordable at $325 per tenant.

Friends of JCDS is planning to remodel three more homes — in Overland Park, Shawnee and Gardner.

“People need housing. If you want to have a successful, vibrant community, people have to be able to afford to live in it. The world is better when we make considerations for everyone,” Bowers said.