Focus group at STAR, Inc., Lighting the Way (contributed photo)
STAR, Inc., Lighting the Way was pleased to be invited to host and participate in a focus group about housing issues among people with physical, mental and developmental disabilities led by Dan Cahill & Associates and Norwalk Redevelopment Agency. The focus group took place on Tuesday, September 23, 2014 at STAR, Inc., Lighting the Way. Attendees included clients from STAR’s Self Advocacy Group and Keystone House. Family members and staff members from STAR, Keystone House, Norwalk Redevelopment Agency and Dan Cahill & Associates were also in attendance.
Katie Banzhaf, STAR’s Executive Director who also participated in the group stated, “Our STAR Self Advocates, families and staff were honored to be invited to participate in the long range planning for the City of Norwalk and appreciate the sensitivity the planners have in considering the challenges faced by people in the disability community who seek affordable and accessible housing in this area.”
Hunter Arton, Community Relations Administrator for Norwalk Redevelopment Agency said, “The focus group on September 23 at STAR, Inc. was designed to solicit the experiences of people challenged by developmental, mental or physical disability and their families, caregivers or service providers. The meeting was led by Dan Cahill and his associate, Emily Vander Does, who guided an informative and lively discussion regarding the Norwalk community and its housing. Those in attendance provided insight into the challenges and opportunities of living in Norwalk, both in how they wish to, and how they currently are able to participate in the community as well as their experiences with finding and securing desirable and appropriate housing. Issues relating to affordability, accessibility, availability and transportation were most commonly mentioned.” Mark Minnock, STAR staff member and advisor to the Self Advocacy Group said, “The advocates had a chance to express the difficulties of getting an apartment, the challenges they face when they find an apartment and what resources are needed in the community in order to make it possible for them to obtain a comfortable and safe place to live.”
Emily Vanderdoes of Dan Cahill & Associates acts as co-moderator of the focus group. STAR clients Talisha Maxwell and Stephen Vigdor, and STAR staff member Nancy Armstrong look on. (contributed photo)
The Norwalk Redevelopment Agency greatly appreciated the support of the STAR, Inc. staff in handling the logistics of hosting this Focus Group at the STAR facility, and for making it open to clients of STAR as well as other local service providers, such as Keystone House, which brought several of its clients to the meeting. Keystone House is a 501 ( c ) (3) not for profit organization that provides residential and psychosocial services for adults with psychiatric disabilities in the greater Norwalk area. For information about Keystone House, visit www.keystone.org
STAR, Inc., Lighting the Way is a local not–for-profit organization established in 1952 to serve individuals of all ages who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as providing support services to their families. STAR’s Self Advocacy Group was created in 2012 as a forum for adults with developmental disabilities to express themselves, to build confidence and to reach beyond invisible boundaries presented to them on a daily basis. STAR creates opportunities for individuals to live full lives with independence, freedom of choice and personal growth by providing support, services and advocacy. They inform and encourage the community to recognize and appreciate the value of all individuals. STAR annually serves over 600 individuals from birth through their senior years in Norwalk, Darien, New Canaan, Wilton, Westport and Weston, providing Birth to 3 early intervention therapies, advocacy and at-home residential support, recreational activities, competitive employment training and placement, day programs, senior programs and respite care. For more information about STAR, Inc., Lighting the Way please visit their website www.starct.org.