Four years ago, I unexpectedly embarked on a journey in the world of special needs. A year later, with a group of like-minded people on a mission to build residential communities for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), we formed Villa de Vida.
Our dream for individuals with I/DD was that they would live a fulfilling life filled with joy and laughter, surrounded by their friends, families and loved ones. Shouldn’t this be a dream for everyone?
With this dream, we achieved these milestones in the last three years:
Secured a parcel from the City of Poway to develop an affordable housing community for adults with developmental disabilities.
Raised more than $2.5 million in building capital.
We got our entitlement approved.
Secured 53 project-based vouchers from the San Diego County. This means every resident of Villa de Vida will receive rental assistance!
With the County’s vouchers, we can now apply for Low Income Housing Tax Credits next month.
If we receive tax credits this year, then we should be able to break ground by March of 2018 and complete construction by summer of 2019.
We continue to advocate for individuals’ rights to choose where, how and with whom they live without losing their access to funding, both at the state and federal level.
We formed a national advocacy coalition to advance disability rights with a group of like-minded organizations.
About a year ago, I felt a sense of calling to serve a wider group of audience beyond Villa de Vida. I became motivated to build more and make a greater impact.
We have a tsunami wave of individuals with developmental disabilities entering adulthood. We have a growing number of adults with developmental disabilities outliving their parents. Today, while California serves almost 320,000 people with developmental disabilities, only 8% of them are living independently. 79% of them are still living at home with their parents or family guardians. So what’s going to happen to the 79% in the next10, 20 or even 30 years?
The alarming reality is that while the I/DD population is growing, resources are shrinking. This is why we must continue to advocate for individuals with developmental disabilities to have access to resources for housing and services. Most importantly, we need to honor and respect their choice as to where, how and with whom they want to live.
There is a lack of understanding of the world of developmental disabilities. We need to educate the world that there is no one same disability, and that every individual’s need is uniquely different. We must embrace these differences.
Addressing these issues, I am pleased to share with you that with a full support from Villa de Vida's board, I will be leading a new organization, Elevare Community, to focus on building more supportive housing for adults with special needs. On June 1st, I will officially end my tenure as Executive Director of Villa de Vida and become a consultant to help Villa de Vida get to the finish line. At the same time, Hunter Christian will become Villa de Vida’s new Executive Director.
It has been an honor to serve such an amazing and vibrant community of individuals with special needs and their families, and I’m truly excited about the future of Villa de Vida Poway!
I am also excited about the beginning of Elevare Community as we have an awesome leadership team ready to go! I look forward to sharing more about Elevare as we have been busy looking for new development opportunities. In addition, I am looking forward to continuing the advocacy work for disability housing and service funding.
I hope to stay in touch with you!
Below is my new contact information. My phone number will remain the same.
As always, thank you for your support and thank you for your friendship. I look forward to connecting with you again soon!
Ashley M. Kim