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NILP, Salisbury resident partner to provide accessible housing

North Andover Citizen - 12/23/2017

The Northeast Independent Living Program Inc. announced a partnership with long-time program participant Ed Walsh, of Salisbury. Walsh contacted the NILP one year ago to detail his plans to construct apartment complexes for people with all types of disabilities, which would all be completely accessible.

The NILP is a consumer-controlled Independent Living Center that provides advocacy and services to people with disabilities who wish to live independently in the community. Independent Living philosophy states that individuals with disabilities are the best determinants of their own needs and service choices. Through role modeling and peer counseling, with other individuals with disabilities, they become empowered to make changes in their lives and become more self-sufficient and self-reliant. The NILP is known throughout the state for helping individuals regain and retain their independence and equality in the community through information and referral, advocacy, skills training, peer counseling and transitions. NILP is a community of people who open doors to create an all-inclusive community free of communication, attitudinal, economic and architectural barriers for all people with disabilities.

Walsh has established the nonprofit Access for Opportunity. His new business enterprise has pledged to create and provide barrier-free housing , transportation and employment opportunities for people with and without disabilities. Walsh realizes the obstacles that people with disabilities encounter when they try to find accessible and affordable apartments and private homes. He found that many people have to spend 12 or more years on a housing authority waiting list before they are offered a vacant unit. During the long periods of time spent on waiting lists, people with a disability may be forced to live in a cramped home with family members, or too often they may even wind up getting sent to a nursing home or institution. Walsh realized that there are not enough affordable and accessible housing opportunities in Northeastern Massachusetts, so he decided to take action. The number one goal for Walsh and his team is to design and build a 56-unit complex that will be barrier-free and will include a combination of one-, two- and three-bedroom dwelling spaces.

Walsh's vision is to make the apartments totally accessible, a place where people with disabilities can easily use the kitchen, the bathroom and complete all of the activities of daily living with ease. Working with the NILP, Walsh organized a "Barrier-free Housing Development" forum in November. Walsh spoke to the audience about the than 50,000 people with all types of disabilities between the ages of 13-50 who are trapped in nursing homes, as well as the fact that it costs more than $48,000 annually to keep one individual in a nursing home. That does not include the human costs, when someone is forced to live in a dependent setting, where they often feel isolated, have no control over their own destiny's and are unhappy.

Those who participated at the forum included professionals who had advice concerning different housing development innovation funding methods, etc. One example includes the possibility of city-owned lands that municipalities have taken as a result of non-payments of local taxes. Various other state, federal and private housing development methodologies were described by guests of the event. Walsh also distributed architectural drawings of the apartments and common areas that he is planning, and outlined next steps, including the need to secure funding.

 
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