Phoenix nonprofit builds apartments to help adults living with autism live more independently

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The four-story apartment building, named First Place Phoenix, is located on Third Street north of Thomas Road in Phoenix next to a health care facility. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The four-story apartment building, named First Place Phoenix, is located on Third Street north of Thomas Road in Phoenix next to a health care facility. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
It will have a total of 55 units with a mix of studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and four-bedroom places. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) It will have a total of 55 units with a mix of studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and four-bedroom places. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The $15.4 million project is funded by public, private and charitable sources. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The $15.4 million project is funded by public, private and charitable sources. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
What the apartment complex will look like. (Source: firstplaceaz.org) What the apartment complex will look like. (Source: firstplaceaz.org)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

A Phoenix nonprofit is building first-of-its-kind apartments in Arizona designed to help adults with autism and other special needs live more independently.

“It’s not for those who need a medical home,” explained Denise D. Reskink, founder of First Place, a sister nonprofit to the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center.

Resnik said it’s not for the people who have the highest or lowest needs; instead for the population in-between. She’s been working on the project for the last 20 years which stemmed out of her concerns for her son living with autism and compassion for other families.

“The looming question for parents like me is who is going to care for him or her when we’re no longer able to do so?” asked Resnik, who stressed there are limited options.

According to the Arizona Division of Developmental Disabilities, there are 42,000 adults in Arizona living with autism and other disabilities.

The four-story apartment building, named First Place Phoenix, is located on Third Street north of Thomas Road in Phoenix next to a health care facility. It will have a total of 55 units with a mix of studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and four-bedroom places.

Resnik said it’ll be outfitted with low-noise appliances and non-fluorescent lights to help with sensory issues.

“(Fluorescent lights) It creates anxiety, they’re not able to focus, it’s not comfortable for them,” she explained.

In-house programs will include a two-year transition academy where those enrolled will learn life skills to live on their own.

Sally Diffley’s 24-year-old son Kyle will one of First Place Phoenix’s first tenants.

“It’s just a perfect situation for someone like my son,” said Diffley.

Right now, he lives at home with her in New York. She’s willing to relocate her family to Arizona to meet her son’s needs.

“He’s mildly autistic,” said Diffley. “He has life skills, he’s functional, he can do self-care.”

However, he struggles with multitasking, money management and remembering to turn off the stove. He also can’t drive since he has a hard time paying attention.

A traditional group home or care facility didn’t seem like the right fit.

“Doesn’t everybody want to go out on their own? I mean, and he should be able to have that opportunity? And hopefully, he can do it. Or he can do it to a certain level,” said Diffley.

There will at least one staff member on property at all times.

ASU Ph.D. students studying social work will also get a chance to live in the building and help as needed.

The $15.4 million project is funded by public, private and charitable sources.

It’s expected to open summer 2018.

Apartment leases start at $3,600 per month for one-bedroom apartments.

Apartment units are still available. Right now, First Place Arizona is taking applications.

Some of the criteria to qualify include being 18 years old and having the ability to feed, dress and bathe themselves. They also must not have violent behaviors or a history of destroying property.  

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