Summer has been the season of change at Jewish Residential Services (JRS). Leonard Staisey House, JRS’s first program to serve the needs of individuals in the Squirrel Hill community with behavioral health disabilities opened in 1993, as a licensed Community Residential Rehabilitation Facility. In 2007, the building was converted to a non-licensed congregate living apartment building, housing 8 individuals with behavioral health disabilities. In May 2014, the JRS board of directors decided to close Leonard Staisey House. Following the board decision, JRS staff began working individually with each of the eight program participants and their interdisciplinary teams (which included: family, external case management staff, therapists, physicians and the Allegheny County Department of Human Services) to develop individualized transition plans. Those plans included the selection of an apartment, living situation (alone or with a roommate) and staff support for moving out of Leonard Staisey House for each participant’s wellness plan. All eight residents of Leonard Staisey House transitioned out of the building by July 1, 2016.
With the closing of Leonard Staisey House, the JRS needed to find new office space for the staff of the Supportive Living program. At the end of June, staff relocated to offices located on the second floor of Rodef Shalom Synagogue.
Moving the Supportive Living program offices to Rodef Shalom presented some challenges. “I will say that I will miss Staisey House being the hub of support. I think there was an element of comfort for the folks who live in their own community living spaces. It was not uncommon to see program participants who didn’t live in the building [just] hanging out, not necessarily needing anything from staff…just hanging out. The homey atmosphere was a hit for staff as well as participants. I will also miss Staisey being right around the corner from my office.” says Audra Thomas, Director of Residential Support Services for JRS.
Moving the offices also has some advantages; Thomas adds, “Moving to Rodef will take our team and the support we provide to the next level. We have been moving in the direction of being a more mobile team for a while and this is just the next step. Not being at Staisey House also frees up staff time to provide more support and grow the program. I also think the team likes having the administrative offices right downstairs.”
The rest of 2016 holds even more exciting changes for JRS. In July, the tax credit funding application submitted by ACTION-Housing and JRS was approved by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. This funding will allow JRS and ACTION-Housing to move forward with the development of the Seymoure and Corinne Krause Commons on the site of the former Poli restaurant in Squirrel Hill. Krause Commons will house the new Sally and Howard Levin Clubhouse, the JRS administrative and Supportive Living program offices, and 33 apartment units half of which will be available to people living with disabilities.