Residents love new Arc apartments

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Kathy Chaffin
When Ronald Foust’s parents got ready to move from Salisbury to Statesville a year ago, he wanted to stay behind so he could graduate from Salisbury High School.
Karen DeGraaf, who was teaching Foust in the Basic Educational Students in Transition program, tried to help. She asked Jane Jackman, executive director of the Arc of Rowan County, if she knew of a place where Foust could live.
Jackman says she responded, “How about the ones we’re building?”
DeGraaf, who used to work in the Arc’s summer program, said she hadn’t heard about the plans for two apartment buildings for people with disabilities. Foust, who is 20, was the first to apply when the two, 2,000-square-foot quadplexes ó The Shores on South Fulton and Freedom House on East 15th Street ó were announced last year and the first to be approved.
He has a photo album chronicling construction of the South Fulton apartments, including shots of him at the site when construction was just beginning, photos of him moving in on May 1, painting his bedroom Carolina Panthers blue, the May 8 open house and the party to celebrate his graduation.
In all of them, Foust has a really big smile on his face.
Jackman says his blue bedroom was a hit at the open house, which was attended by nearly 100 people including Salisbury Mayor Susan Kluttz and Rowan County Commissioner Raymond Coltrain. The color is a bright contrast to the pale beige paint color scheme throughout the quadplex.
Foust says his black metal bed and black dresser came from IKEA in Charlotte, and Melanie Sink, whose family was one of two he lived with while waiting on the apartments to be completed, provided the coordinating window valances.
He has posters of dragons on all three doors in his bedroom. “I love dragons and Panthers,” he says.
Foust says his oversized brown corduroy sofa came from the Habitat Restore. He bought two blue and brown pillows to go with it and is especially excited about the flat-screen television he got for a really good price at Best Buy.
Foust works part time at LA Murph’s Fine Cooking.
His friend, 19-year-old Terrell McElraty, moved into the apartment across from him on June 12, the same day they graduated from Salisbury High. McElraty heard about the new apartments in DeGraaf’s class.
Jackman says McElraty was placed in that particular apartment because of his visual impairment. The doors are painted a different shade from the frames to make them more visible, and his phone features a flashing light that goes off with the fire alarm.
“I like having my own place,” he says. If he gets lonely, McElraty says he gets on the scooter his parents, Anita and Rodney DeWalt, bought him when he moved out, and goes to visit them.
He’s had them over for dinner at his apartment twice so far along with his 16-year-old brother, Terrance, and his pastor and his wife, the Rev. Robert and Judy Smith of White Street Church of Christ in Lexington.
Terrance, who likes to hang out in his older brother’s apartment, says Terrell is a good cook.
Anita DeWalt says she and her husband bought a tan ultra suede, oversized sofa for Terrell’s new apartment, and he covered the bottom cushions with military camouflage. He has two uncles in the Marine Corps.
McElraty works part time at Longhorn Steakhouse.
Though DeWalt says she’s gone through a grieving process since Terrell moved out, “it makes me happy to see him be able to live out on his own.”
Fifty-year-old Doug Jacobs lives in the apartment next to McElraty. A paraplegic since he fell out of a tree and injured his spinal cord in 1991, Jacobs says he noticed the new apartments when he drove by on his custom-made wheelchair/bike. He noticed right away that the doorways in the new building were wider and that one of the parking spaces was designated for handicapped.
Jacobs was living with his parents in Salisbury and had been looking for a place that was wheelchair accessible. The next time he drove by, he says Jackman was there and told him the one wheelchair-accessible apartment in the quadplex was still available.
“I was very excited about that,” he says.
Shela Sapp, assistant director/finance officer for Arc of Rowan, says it took some time to make sure Jacobs qualified because they could only rent to him if none of the developmentally disabled applicants needed a wheelchair-accessible apartment.
Jacobs says he was thrilled to find out he was approved. “It’s very nice to be out on my own,” he says, “and also not to have a roommate. Some roommates don’t work out too good. … They don’t always pay the bills and things like that.”
His apartment includes such features as wide doors, a lower kitchen sink with an open space underneath for Jacobs’ wheelchair to fit in, and a stove with an open space beside it and lower switches for the light and exhaust fan.
“It makes a big difference,” he says. “It may seem like a small thing in some ways, but it’s pretty significant. Just getting in and out of a house that’s not wheelchair-accessible is a chore.”
William Lambert, a senior at South Rowan High School, lives in the fourth apartment in the quadplex. He and McElraty and Jacobs all moved in the same day.
As the senior resident of The Shores, Jacobs says he’ll do his best to offer advice if his younger neighbors ask for it. The apartments include a shared laundry room and large common area with a large sofa, chair, coffee table and end tables.
Jackman says she especially likes the cathedral ceiling in the common area. “I think that’s what really gives it the feeling of airiness,” she says, “and the two skylights help with that.”
The Arc of Rowan will serve as the local operating unit for the quadplexes. Jackman says she and Sapp will hold monthly tenant meetings to discuss different topics along with any issues that might arise.
The Freedom House quadplex has the same layout. Jackman says the plans are the same for all apartments constructed by the Arc of North Carolina with grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Plans have been modified through the years based on residents’ suggestions. Jackman says earlier plans, for example, only included front and back entrances to the common area until residents suggested entrances for each apartment.
Though tenants have been selected for all four of the Freedom House apartments, Jackman says only two have moved in ó 30-year-old Rachard Smith, who had been living with his parents, and 19-year-old Ashley Nicholson, who aged out of the Nazareth Children’s Home.
The rent for the apartments is 30 percent of the tenants’ incomes. The Arc of North Carolina purchased the lots for the apartments, which were constructed with an $800,800 grant from HUD, which also approved a three-year renewable rental subsidy of $76,200.
Jackman says the two quadplexes fill a gap in services for developmentally disabled residents, giving them an option other than living at home or in a group home.
For many of them, she says the opportunity to live on their own is a dream come true.
The Arc of Rowan has a waiting list for the apartments, and Sapp says there’s already one name on it. For more information, call the Arc of Rowan County at 704-637-1521.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-7683.