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ABLE opens new home for people with disabilities

In the next few weeks, six people who are intellectually and perhaps physically disabled will move into their brand-new home. ABLE Inc. in Dickinson recently completed the home, which was built by Tooz Construction of Dickinson, on the north end ...

ABLE board member Art Wanner (left) and Executive Director Mary Anderson showed off the house on Thursday afternoon. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press
ABLE board member Art Wanner (left) and Executive Director Mary Anderson showed off the house on Thursday afternoon. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press
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In the next few weeks, six people who are intellectually and perhaps physically disabled will move into their brand-new home.

ABLE Inc. in Dickinson recently completed the home, which was built by Tooz Construction of Dickinson, on the north end of town near Prairie Rose. ABLE has three similar homes in the area and helps provide different services to about 100 people in Dickinson, Bowman and Hettinger, said Mary Anderson, ABLE's executive director. While some of these people live on their own and are checked in on by staff, the people in the newly constructed home require constant assistance. There are three other similar homes in the area, with all four housing 24 residents total.

The staff planned the home to keep the residents' dignity and privacy at the forefront.

"For people to have dignity and life, we need to be able to create better space because these homes are going to be here for the next 50, 60 years at least," Anderson said. "To have the person be able to have privacy and dignity was important to us."

The six residents are moving from their current ABLE housing, which was in a building the company leased. ABLE owns the news homes, which will make it easier to make any changes without needing to consult a landlord beforehand.

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Each resident will have their own room and will bring their own beds and personal belongings. The bedrooms are equipped with sinks and cabinets as well as machines to help move the resident if needed. Two residents will share a bathroom - which were also crafted specifically to assist those with special needs. The home has specially made bathtubs to improve residents' access. The toilets are placed so that two staff members can easily help a resident as well.

"It is about functionality for the people and for the staff," Anderson said. "It's going to live on in the future for a lot of years because of the space and because of the functional components we've put into this building. It's just absolutely huge and amazing."

There is a large, spacious kitchen and living room spaces as well. There is also a porch they can walk onto. The home is equipped with different key fob access, so residents cannot leave the gate around the home if they do go outside. The key fob also restricts some residents upstairs, while others are allowed to go into the furnished basement if they wish to get away from their housemates or go to a more private area to visit with family members.

"I think they want to feel that it's theirs, and they'll make it theirs," said Art Wanner, secretary of ABLE's board of directors. "They want to be like everybody else. That's the important thing - that we can make them feel that way. They're not being singled out, they're just like everybody else and they're proud of that."

In Wanner's experience, the residents have been really excited to move into their new homes and are proud to show them off to their families. They may not have had a space to call their own before, he said.

Residents pay as much of the cost as they can, and then the state and federal government split the remainder, Anderson said. Residents must also qualify in order to be eligible - they must have an intellectual disability of some sort.

"We're geared up to provide people with very significant needs, so they don't have to go to a nursing home," she said. "A nursing home has a different philosophy, I think they're going to take care of a lot of the physical needs and we're really into community and dignity and getting out in the community and doing things."

The state recognized that ABLE would need to build its own houses after renting for so long and helped finance the project. But the state dictated how they could spend the money. For example, Anderson said they wanted a two-car garage, while the state would only pay for a one-car garage. The state also would not help fund a basement. So ABLE began a $2.5 million fundraising campaign in order to provide these additional things to the residents, she said.

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So far, the campaign has raised about $2 million since 2013 through grants and other donations. Anderson hopes to reach ABLE's goal by the end of the year.

"I think when you look at the building and you realize the conditions that they've had to live in compared to what they have to look forward to, it's all been well worth it," Wanner said.

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