Over the Rainbow Association helps disabled residents find housing

October 14, 2012 7:04:43 AM PDT
For almost 40 years, a Chicago-area not-for-profit organization has been developing affordable and accessible apartment buildings for people with physical disabilities.

Housing is in demand for this population.

Located in Evanston, Over the Rainbow's mission is all about giving people with physical disabilities a chance to live independently and in the community.

"Our first building it was built in 1982, which was Belmont apartments in the Lincoln Park area," said Eric Huffman, executive director. "Hill Arboretum Apartments was built in 1990. It was actually an adaptive reuse of an old hospital, and then we built five other buildings and are working on a sixth right now. Our buildings are scattered around northern Illinois."

To qualify, residents must have a physical disability.

"They would have to have a doctor's proof that they do have a physical disability," said Huffman. "These buildings are designed for very low income. So, basically, it would be somebody that has 30 percent of average median income or lower. They have to pay one-third of their adjusted monthly income."

Each building has between 20 to 25 units. Renters range between 22 and 64 years old.

CJ Campbell, 26, lives in an apartment. He has a mild form of cerebral palsy and has been advocating for more Over the Rainbow housing.

"In Illinois, finding suitable options for somebody with a disability is nearly impossible with the particular political climate we're in and also the economic downturn," Campbell said. "There needs to be a diversity of options, and also what is a crucial in any sort of social need, is that to be effective in meeting the needs -- but at the same time being cost-effective to the taxpayers, which is exactly what Over the Rainbow is."

"We've got so many people that want to be, you know, would like to live in an Over the Rainbow apartment. We'd like to provide more of those. I think the whole disability movement has moved towards a more integrated model, and we're looking at those, too," said Huffman.

Over the Rainbow is also working with the VA to help fund and provide housing for veterans with physical disabilities.

For more information go to www.otrassn.org.


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