Kyu Kyu and Jason Trejo sign a lease for their first apartment.
Kyu Kyu and Jason Trejo welcome visitors to their new home.
In June 2018, Jasmine joined the young family.
Karla Mitchell is a natural, self-taught interior decorator.
Karla and son, Jason, sign-in at the meet and greet held by DDD at the Community Center in May.
Studies show involvement in one’s community can have a tremendous impact on overall well-being. Connections with neighbors, family and friends, while living independently leads to a happier, healthier life. As a matter of fact, according to a joint study conducted by the American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, the best outcomes occurred among individuals with [intellectual and developmental disabilities] living in their own homes (owned or rented).”
The Department of Economic Security (DES) Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) refers its members to affordable housing opportunities as part of the supportive services offered by its HERO Unit. The unit, which stands for Housing, Engagement, Resource and Opportunity, was established in November 2016.
“Stable, affordable housing helps to improve one’s health and social well-being,” said Megan Akens, Housing Specialist for DDD. “DDD members who participate in the affordable housing program tend to connect with their communities and are more satisfied with their lives.”
That is true for one young couple: recent high school graduate Kyu Kyu and DDD member Jason Trejo, . Prior to moving into their apartment, Kyu and Trejo were living with Trejo’s parents, brother and sister. “It was tight,” said Kyu, with six adults living in one small apartment and a baby on the way. Fortunately, Trejo’s DDD Support Coordinator told the family of the affordable housing opportunity through the HERO unit.
“We started the application process in mid-October,” explained Kyu. “The process was very fast for us. We were able to move into our apartment in early February.” Trejo and Kyu are now leasing a recently renovated, two-bedroom apartment in Phoenix.
Kyu found the entire experience to be wonderful, and four months after moving in, Kyu and Trejo welcomed their first born, Jasmine, into their home.
The affordable housing program has been a success. According to Akens, 26 of the 27 units available to DDD members at the Phoenix location have been filled. There are six other properties around the Phoenix area that are part of the HUD grant. These properties have agreed to notify DDD when vacancies exist, and will be filled through the DDD Housing Wait List.
Karla Mitchell, mother of Jason, also a DDD member, lives in the same community. The Mitchells’ two-bedroom apartment is tastefully decorated and was slightly modified with additional safeguards. Jason, who has autism, “is a tinkerer,” said Mitchell. “He likes to take things apart.” That is why Mitchell asked the apartment management company to add a lock on the door to the air conditioning unit and the hot water heater.
Speaking about her neighbors and the community, Mitchell noted, “It’s beautiful here … and the Community Center opened just about a month ago.” The Community Center is where the HERO program recently held a meet and greet for DDD members residing at the property.
Akens and her staff are also working to develop relationships with other housing authorities for future subsidized housing options in other locations throughout Arizona. The goal is to make it possible for eligible DDD members to have a place to call their own.
For more information on the Affordable Housing Program, DDD members and families are encouraged to contact their Support Coordinator or DDD Housing Coordinator, Tania Griep, at (602) 542-0891 or [email protected].
By Lyn Riley