By Jeff Peck
February 24, 2021
There is a critical shortage of housing for developmentally disabled (DD) adults. Looking at the numbers, it is clear that there is an emerging crisis. We are facing an unprecedented demand for housing for adults with special needs. And it isn’t just for autism—we are aware that all adults with developmental disabilities are facing the trauma of being ripped from their communities because there is nowhere for them to go unless we do something. Big Wave’s mission is to provide not only residency, but fulfilling employment that gives them a purpose, with employers who will help sustain their home as well. Adults with special needs that live at the Big Wave residence will live in what we call an “intentional community” where they will receive peer support and live among those who understand them under superior quality supervision. This post will explain why this model is so effective.
Why An Intentional Community Model is Better
In our experience, as parents of adults with special needs, larger communities that are created with special needs in mind work better because of their social benefits. It is true that some adults require more support than can be safely and consistently delivered in a dispersed setting like Big Wave, but for the majority, the peer support benefits are the most beneficial consequence. Our greatest fear as parents and family members is that when we can no longer care for our kids, they will be shut in their own apartments with a caregiver who makes minimum wage and who is minimally trained, where there is the potential for abuse and/or neglect (https://disabilityjustice.org/justice-denied/abuse-and-exploitation/). We as a society cannot let that happen. This prospect is what led us to design the Big Wave model.
The Big Wave Model
Big Wave was created to establish a community which not only provides a safe and secure housing environment, but also provides an enriched lifestyle for adults with special needs.
Purpose of The Big Wave Project: This is what adults with developmental disabilities need…
To create a financially sustainable community for adults with developmental disabilities that provides:
- affordable housing with the equivalency of home ownership
- job and career opportunities
- a community with daily support and interaction
- a purpose each day
The Big Wave Project Mission: What we can do…
To have a community property and program which can serve a broader purpose for all adults with developmental disabilities throughout San Mateo county by providing:
- affordable housing
- access to day programs of choice such One Step Beyond
- close access to local commercial tenants willing to hire adults with developmental disabilities
- employment training through various vendors, for example, a culinary school for adults with developmental disabilities through One Step Beyond
- a model for future developments like this to provide housing and community for adults with developmental disabilities
Big Wave has a unique design that is made up of a residential component surrounded by a commercial component and includes a community Co-Op that provides family support and quality control. The three work together for the benefit of adults with special needs.
Think of Big Wave in three parts:
1. We begin with the Non–Profit aspect of Big Wave:
This is a 501 c 3 with the three part mission of providing affordable housing, employment opportunities and community for adults with developmental disabilities.
2. The For-Profit arm of Big Wave provides financial stability for years to come:
This provides no government revenue to subsidize the non-profit’s mission. This includes the commercial space: a culinary academy, local businesses who will rent space and hire adults with special needs, giving them the gift of meaningful employment. These businesses will also provide products and services for the local coastal community, so they do not have to drive long distances, cutting down on carbon emissions.
3. The Community Co-Op provides oversight, decision-making and quality control
This is the family support aspect of the model. It feeds the non-profit arm that provides jobs and purpose, a home environment, a farm to feed our residents and support local businesses and the recreation that residents need.
This model is parent-driven, meaningful and provides the community support we all need. It is a unique model we hope you will come visit.
“I look forward to visiting [my daughter] Sarah at Big Wave. We are going to have a network of family members who contribute whatever Big Wave needs.”