With 44 years under its belt, Chapel Haven is ready to make an update to its campus and expand its services for adults with disabilities.
That was the upshot of a presentation this past Wednesday night to the Westille Community Management Team during its monthly meeting at Mauro-Sheridan School.
Catherine Sullivan-DeCarlo, Chapel Haven vice president of admissions and marketing, told neighbors that the private not-for-profit has grown from one multi-family house on Chapel Street that served six adults with two staff in 1972, to today serving 250 adults with about 150 staffers out of a base on Whalley Avenue in Westville.
Chapel Haven helps adults with disabilities learn to manage their lives by teaching skills like budgeting, using public transportation, learning to cook and going to college and working. Sullivan-DeCarlo said that 85 percent of the adults who come to Chapel Haven go through the two-year supervised residential program before they move out into the neighborhood.
“They’re your neighbors — we’re your neighbors,” she said. “We are here worshipping over at St. Aedan’s and BEKI up the street, and we’re working at Stop & Shop and we’re spending money in Westville Village and we’re going over to see Sharon at Mitchell Library. So we are a part of the fabric of this community.”
And now it wants to further be part of the neighborhood by upgrading its campus, not just for a much needed face lift, but to better serve aging adults with disabilities and to become a model program for employment of adults with disabilities. Those priorities, in addition to a desire to increase the organization’s endowment, came out of about two years of strategic planning, she said.
“We have tended to put our money into programming and staff and that has really been to the detriment of our campus, which at this point we’ve been in the community for 44 years,” she said. “So, we really need to transform and renovate our campus. We do serve adults in our community who have state funding and school district funding, but we want to grow our endowment even more because we want to be a program of choice for any family that needs our services.”
Chapel Haven serves adults from 18 to 65 years old. Part of the renovation of the campus includes making its offerings “truly lifelong,” Sullivan-DeCarlo said. That means providing an aging service facility right on the current footprint of Chapel Haven’s campus.
“If you are an adult with disabilities and you are heading into your senior years, you’ll be able to essentially age in place at Chapel Haven,” she said. “We will have support for you.”
Another group that will get more supports is job-seeking adults with disabilities. Sullivan-DeCarlo said those supports won’t be for just those who are connected to Chapel Haven.
Sullivan-DeCarlo said that a Chapel Haven family has provided $5 million to create an employment model for people with disabilities. The organization is working on the project with Southern Connecticut State University, Yale University and national experts in the field of employment to create the Center for Employment Opportunities based at Chapel Haven.
“Unemployment and underemployment is really a national problem,” she said. “We were lucky that one of our families has given us this grant to create an employment model. It will endeavor to provide a job not just for all adults at Chapel Haven, but generally for adults with disabilities.
“It’s a project that’s being watched around the world really,” she added. “It’s such an important thing to get right, and we have a family that wants to help Chapel Haven take the lead on that.”
Chapel Haven is working with The SLAM Collaborative to create the physical changes to the campus, and all of the work will be done as part of the existing site. SLAM’s client list includes James Hillhouse High School field house, Celentano School, the Metropolitan Business Academy, architectural projects at Yale, Hopkins School, Yale-New Haven Hospital and Southern.
David Neal, a SLAM principal, said that the campus site is a little over two acres and all the work, which include replacing two buildings, fits into the current zoning ordinance and can be accomplished without a trip to the Board of Zoning Appeals.
West Hills/Beverly Hills Alder Richard Furlow told those gathered for the meeting Wednesday that when he heard of the plans for the project he clicked his heels together in excitement.
“The Chapel Haven community has been a real integral part of the Westville community,” he said. “This is something that will bring some economic development and beautification to the area where they are.”