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A home to call their own

Horizon clients experience independent living for the first time

Christine Metz

— The idea of shoveling snow off sidewalks and patio decks might send a visible shudder through Misty Garcia, but the thought of living on her own spreads a smile across her face so warm it could melt a mid-winter snow fall.

Excitement and nervousness are two emotions that Garcia shares with many other early twenty-somethings who are about to experience the independence of living on their own for the first time.

But unlike many other twenty-somethings, Garcia’s prospect of spreading her wings will come with a few more challenges.

In February, the developmentally disabled Garcia will be moving into a ranch house at the base of Mount Werner with two other Horizon clients. For the first time in Steamboat, Horizons will be putting three developmentally disabled clients together in the same house, which means these women will have the responsibilities of mowing grass and to Garcia’s distaste, shoveling snow.

Although Horizons has eight clients living independently, most live as doubles in apartments in towns. At the first of the year, Horizons’ first client will move into a house.

Living independently means Garcia, who has been with her parents in Oak Creek, will have to take on the routine tasks of doing laundry, grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning for the first time.

Horizons’ development coordinator, Kay Borvansky said that living on their own allows these women with developmental disabilities to have a better quality of life.

Less than 30 years ago these highly functioning women would have been institutionalized, Ginny Cannon, Routt County Adult Community Coordinator, said. But, today independent-living homes give them a chance to become a part of the community.

“The mindset has changed over the years. If they didn’t live at home, they were in institutions. We’ve gotten away from that practice,” Cannon said. “It’s our mission with our clients to be part of the community and enjoy the benefits of Steamboat Springs.”

Because two out of the three women will be living on their own for the first time, Horizons is asking the community to help them get started. These women are in need of the housekeeping basics like sheets, pillowcases, dishtowels, bedspreads, small appliances and furniture, Borvansky said.

To help the community donate household goods to the three women, Horizons has set up a gift registry in its name at True Value and Wal-Mart. Like a bridal registry, the store has a list of items the clients need and will take off any item that has been purchased.

“Two out of the three are going to be younger clients, moving out of being with their families and living independently. They don’t have a lot of furnishing and we need to furnish them,” Borvansky said.

Although federal and state funding provides a monthly living allowance for each of the Horizons’ clients, that amount barely or does not cover the rent. That means, Horizons, a non-profit organization, is left to pick up the tab for medical bills, food and utilities.

Some independent Horizon clients like Garcia have jobs, which gives them extra cash for clothing, entertainment and other activities.

For Garcia, her spending money comes from working as a cleaner at Mountain Homefitters and for Drawn Thread, a local company owned by Cinthia Zittel, which donates all its proceeds to Horizons.

A year-old traveler on the Steamboat bus system, Garcia will have better access living in Steamboat to her jobs, friends and activities than she did in Oak Creek.

Garcia’s eyes light up as she talks about inviting friends over for dinner and being able to do some of her favorite hobbies more often: bowling, skiing and going to the pool.

To help the three women with the basics of housekeeping, a Horizons counselor will come to the house two times a day for four to six hours. Over time, Horizons hopes to slowly decrease the contact between clients and counselor.

As in any living situation, the experience will also mean that the three women will have to work on developing relationships and learning to live with one another.

“One of the merits is the camaraderie that they’ll share when they have to complete and accomplish tasks around the house,” Cannon said.

To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com


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