NEW PORT RICHEY — Thousands of people in Florida don’t have a roof over their heads every night, but Youth and Family Alternatives started a project to help alleviate the homeless population in Pasco, especially for those on the service wait list for Florida’s Agency for Persons with Disabilities.

Youth and Family Alternatives is building new apartments for people with special needs and low-income families. On Nov. 2, the organization broke ground at the construction site that will become The Commons at Speer Village. It will be at 7349 Plathe Road, which is adjacent to the YFA administrative building and the youth shelter, called the RAP House.

The ceremony was held for phase one of the project, which will be the construction of six supportive housing units for eight developmentally disabled adults. Requirements for the apartments were listed in a press release. Residents must be at least 18 years old, fully or partially ambulatory, or require full use of a wheelchair for mobility. Residents will require support, supervision and/or training to be able to function in a residential setting safely, as well as increase their independent skills.

The idea was pitched to the organization by the Florida Housing and Finance Corporation, which seeks to boost affordable housing opportunities. The corporation also provided funding for the project, along with the Speer Foundation and the Pasco County Community Development Department.

Mark Wickham, the YFA CEO, believes that housing is an important step towards helping people with intellectual disabilities grow and learn how to obtain independence and confidence in their goals.

“We want to be able to give opportunities to those with intellectual disabilities to have control over simple things in their lives and environment, which can spur more significant accomplishments like obtaining a job or moving out to live independently,” Wickham said. “Speer Village will be a nurturing environment that will cultivate and empower residents to make their own life choices.”

YFA will reach out to service providers for independent-living skills coaching for the residents.

Phase 2 of the project will be 50 supportive housing apartments, which is scheduled to break ground in late 2019. These apartments will be geared towards more than 100 low to moderate-income individuals and families as well as youth that age out of the foster care system.

The Commons at Speer Village was designed by Holiday-based Spring Engineering and the complex will be built by Park & Eleazer Construction, in Clearwater.

“YFA is committed to working in partnership with communities and families to create a safe, nurturing environment for children,” Wickham said. “It’s for families and children, and individuals in our communities that are in need. Utilizing my experience as a housing developer, we believe that developing this type of housing for individuals is essential.”

The organization hopes to have finances ready for Phase 2 next year. Possible on-site services include a computer lab, a community room, on-site educational services and preventative health care.

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