Red Bank: Apartment Project To Be Specifically For Adults With Autism

Source: NJ Today

Karen Fluharty exhaustively searched 40 places across the country where her son Ryan could go when he “fell off the services cliff,” as a young adult with autism. “None of them were a fit. They were either group home-like settings where individuals needed higher 1:1 support. Or located in neighborhoods that weren’t walkable,” said Fluharty, of Montville.

So she decided to create neuro-diverse housing project in Red Bank through a nonprofit she founded called Parents with a Plan. The group’s mission is to unite families, legal and housing professionals with a goal of creating homes for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The housing project, dubbed Thrive, was recently given site plan approval and variances from Red Bank for a property located at 273 Shrewsbury Ave. Construction is expected to begin next year and be completed in 2025.

The current retail and apartment building on the site will be demolished and a three-story, 35,891-square foot building with 32 one-bedroom units and one ground floor studio apartment will be built.

“Access to this type of housing will reduce costs,” said Christopher Manente, founding executive director of the Rutger Center for Adult Autism Services. “The idea here is to do things up front. It will also result in less of a need to be so reactive and waiting for people to fail, which is the current system. Only people who lapse into crisis get attention.”

There are at least 200,000 people in New Jersey who have intellectual or developmental disabilities, according to a market analysis study commissioned by Parents with a Plan last year. About 73% live with family and 38,000 of them live with a caregiver who is over the age of 60.

Fluharty, who did eventually find a place for her son to go in Arizona, reached out to her former boss John Klein, with whom she worked in retail real estate for Simon Premium Outlets and his wife, Robin. Using Fluharty’s background in marketing and communications and Klein’s as a former chief executive officer for Simon’s shopping center division, the two have partnered as developers.

“This will be a first in New Jersey,” he said of Thrive. “That’s not to say there aren’t other excellent examples of supportive housing. But none that have gone to this length. And there’s never been a private-public partnership like this.”

A “navigator” will live in a studio apartment on the ground level of the building be available to help guide residents. For example, Fluharty said, if a resident were to get injured, the navigator could help them determine if the injury requires a bandage or a trip to the emergency room.

“I’m doing this because as a single parent, I shouldn’t have to make the decision of having my son in the best program and remaining at home,” she said. “The choice between geography and the best program was a major catalyst for me creating Thrive.”

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