Local nonprofit Glennwood Housing Foundation sets up residents for success with its communal home in town.
By Tanya A. Yacina
Inspired by the fact that there is a lack of affordable housing for those with special needs in Orange County, Glennwood Housing Foundation started in 2009 with the goal of providing safe, inclusive, reasonably-priced homes for those with developmental disabilities. Founder Randy Larson, who has a special needs child of his own, wanted developmentally challenged individuals to have equal opportunities for a dignified, fulfilled life.
Ten years ago, the organization opened Glennwood House of Laguna Beach and is marking the milestone this year with various events for the residents, their family members and the local community. Glennwood will also hold a 10-year anniversary gala, with a “Casino Royale” theme, on Oct. 21 at the Festival of Arts grounds, with hundreds of guests and sponsors expected to be on-site to celebrate the residents and their accomplishments.
“The benefit of living at Glennwood is to live in a safe environment and to have access to the supports necessary to reach the goal of independence,” says Faith Manners, CEO of Glennwood House of Laguna Beach. “This looks different to each individual, and every individual has the right to seek a lifestyle … [that ensures] equity and inclusion in the community. The alternative is to remain living with family, to live in a smaller group home environment, or rent an apartment or room.”
Manners says the 46 residents who live at Glennwood House each have their own reasons for seeking an independent life. Many desire to live outside of their family home to pursue their own goals and explore their own interests, just like their friends and family members.
Each resident has his or her own apartment in which to maintain their individual lifestyles, but Glennwood provides staffing support 24 hours per day, offering aid with meals, daily activities, transportation, medical appointments, social engagement opportunities and recreation in the community as well as helping those with an interest in employment, education or volunteerism.
“The city of Laguna Beach has welcomed Glennwood House from the first day we opened in August 2013,” says Janet Parsons, the foundation’s director of development and housing, “and we are very excited to be part of this diverse and vibrant community, as our residents are very diverse and it really is a microcosm of the larger community.”
Residents at Glennwood House of Laguna Beach are provided many opportunities to learn and grow so they can live, work and thrive in the local community.
According to Faith Manners, CEO of Glennwood House of Laguna Beach, the communal building offers recreation and learning opportunities for residents, including cooking, arts and crafts, hiking, basketball, softball, drama and music, drumming, gardening, beach cleanups and walks on the sand as well as visits to nearby festivals and cause-related activities in the community. On-site activities are available every day while off-site excursions are offered as opportunities arise, many of which occur several times per week. As part of the group’s focus on quality of life, fulfillment and inclusion, Glennwood House residents are invited to participate in any of the activities that interest them.
Building Life Skills
Residents at Glennwood House learn aspects of daily living, including budgeting and personal finance, navigating public transportation, interview skills, safe food handling, diet and nutrition and personal care activities like laundry, housekeeping and grooming/hygiene. “Each resident has a personal plan designed to enhance the skills they already have and set benchmarks for new skills they need and wish to learn in order to live independently in a supportive environment,” Manners says. “All 46 of our residents are supported by a team of direct service professionals and a senior support coordinator who navigate growth and opportunities for each resident in consultation with their family.”
Developing friendships with peers is critically important as those with disabilities often do not have the same access to socialization due to challenges with transportation, communication and ongoing social circles, Manners says. These challenges were compounded by the recent global pandemic, which further disengaged people with disabilities because of program closures, loss of jobs and volunteer opportunities, and disruption of in-person education. “The residents at Glennwood are really just like any other resident in Laguna … who seeks to live their fullest life by engaging with friends, seeking meaningful employment, and being accepted and recognized as valuable contributing members of the community,” she explains.