For 125 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Our House is their house.
They’re enrolled in the day and residential programs run by the nonprofit, which helps them achieve personal growth and develop the skills they need to live safely and independently.
“We work with individuals 18 and up,” said Carol Fischer, Our House Inc.’s executive director. “We tend to have a younger demographic, but we’ve worked with a gentleman who was in his 80s. Our whole goal is to help our individuals reach their greatest level of independence. For everyone, that means something different.”
Our House operates a day program out of a homelike building shaded by trees at 1609 S. Wahsatch Ave. Participants check in in the mornings to meet and greet each other.
“We’re really big on relationships, in terms of friendships, and we work on that a lot,” Fischer said.
Then they go out into the community with their providers to work on life and social skills and activities that enhance their independence. A typical day might include a sign language class, swimming at the YMCA, or a martial arts class.
Our House also believes in participants being contributing members of society, Fischer said, “so we try to do some type of volunteering,” such as cleaning up a community park.
Paid staff assist and supervise the participants on a 1:1 to 1:3 basis, depending on individual needs and abilities.
A related program, called RISE, is geared toward individuals who are looking to live somewhat independently in their own apartments, go to college or have a part- or full-time job.
“We don’t do formal job coaching,” Fischer said, “but we work on the soft skills that people need in order to get a job — being able to follow directions, get along with co-workers and approach your boss if there is an issue.”
Clients also learn about money management and budgeting, healthy habits such as making good food choices and how to take care of their apartment or home.
Other Our House clients are part of a residential program. They live with individuals, couples or families who provide round-the-clock care and supervision.
“Essentially it is adult foster care,” Fischer said. “They get support with whatever they need, whether it’s making sure that they get their meals, getting to doctor’s appointments and helping them participate in activities of their choice.”
Other individuals in the residential program live in their own homes or apartments and receive assistance from staff — perhaps help with cleaning or grocery shopping.
Our House was founded by Ché and Caroline Frey in 2008. Ché was working with an individual in District 20 who needed specific services and couldn’t find anything suitable for that student.
“So we just said, ‘Let’s just design a program for this individual,’” he said.
Within the first year, “we began to get other parents interested in something uniquely different and maybe better for their loved ones,” Ché said.
The program evolved as Our House contracted with School Districts 20 and 11 and expanded into additional districts. It now has contracts to provide services in eight school districts.
The organization has expanded its day services into a second facility at 5759 N. Union Blvd. and also has established a day program in Fort Collins.
Until recently, Our House has been supported almost entirely through fees for services and Medicaid waivers. Now Frey and Fischer are concentrating on fundraising.
“Additional funding would allow us to provide more services and to serve more individuals,” Fischer said. “We have a wait list of about 20 individuals right now for our day program. There’s definitely a need, and the number of individuals with disabilities only seems to be growing.
“We assist some really wonderful individuals, and people donating to Our House will help us continue providing the great services that we do.”