REACHing out but falling short on building funds

Juneau nonprofit $250,00 short for new assisted living facilities

Posted: Friday, April 10, 2009

For REACH Executive Director Richard Fagundes, the last couple months have been busy trying to fully fund a new group home for the Juneau nonprofit's clients.

David J. Sheakley / Juneau Empire
David J. Sheakley / Juneau Empire

Despite two grants that have already been approved, his organization is still a quarter-million dollars short, but the need for new facilities will continue to grow, he said.

REACH, which opened in 1977, focuses on providing job opportunities to adults with disabilities, but over the years has expanded its web of services to include providing jobs and housing for adults with disabilities, in-home support and counseling for the disabled and their families.

"We had staff and families come to us who felt their children were in need of an assisted living facility, because the parents were aging and were concerned about their adult children when they were no longer able to care for them," Fagundes explained.

REACH is Juneau's fourth-largest private employer with more than 286 employees and is Southeast Alaska's largest employer of individuals with disabilities, according to Fagundes.

The majority of REACH employees staff facilities and work directly with clients or in off-site locations. Separate from that, 11 residents are living in REACH's three existing assisted living facilities. But Fagundes said they want to build three more facilities over the next five years.

"We try and make our clients as independent as possible, and where it's possible, we try and have them live in independent settings," Fagundes said. "But all of them are not able to do that, and some require continued assistance."

According to a 2008 REACH survey, approximately 25 more individuals with developmental disabilities in Southeast Alaska will need assisted living over the next five years. The survey was based on only individuals REACH was able to identify from its contacts within Southeast and through the state's department of Senior and Disabilities Services, Fagundes said.

"There's likely more based on the people with developmental disabilities," he added.

REACH needs at least three new homes, because it does not house more than five individuals in one facility.

"We want it to be a home-like setting," Fagundes said of the facilities. "We're creating a residential home for these individuals, and these individuals come together and become a family of themselves. Anything much bigger than that gets very institutional like."

Fagundes said REACH has partial grant funds to build two of the three desired assisted living homes.

Along with its Section Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities Grant, REACH also received a Special Needs Housing Grant through the Alaska Housing Finance Corp. But that money isn't enough.

"That also has a shortfall, but we're working directly with Alaska Housing Finance Corporation," Fagundes said.

REACH's Section 811 grant, provided by the department of Housing and Urban Development in 2007, is slated to fund the construction of one new home starting in October, to be located at 3510 Mendenhall Loop Road. At about 3,600 square feet, the home will have five bedrooms, four for residents and one for staff. But REACH is still short $250,000, according to Fagundes.

This shortfall is due to the costly requirements of the Application for Firm Commitment, which has a multitude of requirements such as site control, land appraisal, environmental site assessment, zoning approvals, building permits and contracts from the architect and contractor, Fagundes said.

"The cost to construct in Alaska, especially Southeast Alaska, is considerably higher than the amount of our HUD grant," he explained.

Fagundes said REACH's sister agency in Ketchikan, Community Connections, has the same problem.

"They're building a larger facility, and they have a $500,000 shortfall," he said.

Fagundes traveled in early March to Washington, D.C., to petition for the support of Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich, and Congressman Don Young.

"I asked the delegation to work with HUD in increasing the grant amount, given Southeast Alaska's high construction costs," Fagundes said. "So Congressman Young's office has been appointed the point person by the delegation and is working with HUD on our behalf of REACH and a sister agency in Ketchikan."

On a visit and tour with REACH administrators Tuesday at its downtown Juneau office, Young showed his support for the project.

"I think this is a classic example of a great project that makes sense," he said. "It not only helps individuals but it helps the community. REACH has been ... very beneficial to the individuals who have handicaps."

If HUD funding isn't increased, Fagundes said REACH has other options. The Alaska Mental Health Trust has made $100,000 available to them.

"Also, in the last month, the Juneau delegation put in the discretionary budget $100,000 for us," he said.

REACH also requested $20,000 from the Rasmuson Foundation.

• Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at 586-2272 or kim.andree@juneauempire.com.



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