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Area officials help cut the ribbon on Phase I of Youth and Family Alternatives’ new housing project for intellectually challenged adults, The Commons at Speer Village.

NEW PORT RICHEY – Youth and Family Alternatives celebrated the completion of Phase I for what will be a 56-unit housing complex for intellectually challenged adults and low- to moderate-income individuals.

A ribbon cutting was held August 9 to showcase the first six units of The Commons at Speer Village, which will serve eight developmentally disabled adults.

In addition to their disabilities, those who will begin calling their new address at 7349 Plathe Road “home” for the first time later this month come from low income backgrounds and may include individuals who can no longer be supported by aging or deceased parents.

“These are people who can live independently, but do not have some of the everyday skills most of us take for granted,” said YFA CEO Mark Wickham. “They just need a little extra support on tasks such as meal planning, cooking, and budgeting.”

Wickham said there will be personnel who check on the residents “just to see if their bills are being paid, are they eating okay, keeping the place clean and getting to work or a doctor’s appointment.”

“Once they move in, this is permanent for as long as they want to be here,” he said. “They can truly say they are home.”

According to the YFA, Pasco County is servicing about 650 individuals with intellectual disabilities, while more than 450 locally are awaiting services.

The idea behind construction of The Commons is to address the current and growing needs of Pasco County’s population in need of housing, counseling, day programming and other support services.

Those residents who are moving into Phase I must be 18 years or older, be fully or partially ambulatory or require full use of a wheelchair, and the new housing has been constructed with accessibility taken into account with a wide range of needs to accommodate the residents.

“Having control over simple things in their lives and environment can often spur more significant accomplishments like obtaining a job or moving out to live independently,” Wickham added. “Speer Village will be a nurturing environment that will cultivate and empower residents to make their own life choices.”

Funding for the new residences has come from a combination of local and state funding, as well as a grant from The Speer Foundation, from which the complex has taken its name.

“This is a nice, warm, friendly environment and people can call it their own and that’s very important in today’s society,” said Richard Barker, Speer Foundation executive director. “Sadly, many of these people are being left out and it’s our desire to help them.”

The Speer Foundation was created by Roy Speer and his family. An attorney who later became a developer, Speer, in 1982, founded the Home Shopping Network with media executive Lowell “Bud” Paxson. Speer died in 2012.

Barker said Pasco County has been very good to the Speer family and “this is one of the ways we wish to show our appreciation.”

“This county commission really wants to help out those in need and when we have great organizations like YFA that can produce such great results, it’s easy to get behind then and support them,” said County Commissioner Jack Mariano.

Phase II of the project will provide 50 supportive housing apartments that will serve more than 100 low to moderate income individuals, families, and youth aging out of the foster care system.

Groundbreaking for Phase II is scheduled for later this year.

For more information about Youth and Family Alternatives, visit www.yfainc.org.