“I want to stay at Bauer forever,” Katie Cameron exclaims.
Cameron, 51, refers to Bauer House, an apartment complex operated by Dreams with Wings, a nonprofit organization that provides services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and autism. Jenifer Frommeyer, executive director, founded the organization 21 years ago. She, along with several other like-minded people, had searched for a place where participants could be fully included in the community. They didn’t find one, so Dreams was established.
“Anyone can live in a house on a street, but not everybody can be included,” Frommeyer says. “Our goal was to try to create opportunities for people to have full and vibrant lives to the fullest extent possible in the community, and have the same opportunities that you and I have in our everyday living.”
Initially the organization’s leaders planned to focus on residential services, since Frommeyer has a background in residential services. They were looking at houses and apartments when they realized there were many other needs to be addressed. They expanded their vision to include other factors.
“Today we do a plethora of things such as supported employment, where we help people find jobs,” Frommeyer says. “We have an adult day training program. We have occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech. We have a summer camp for kids with Down syndrome and autism, and other disabilities. I am so proud of the men, women and children that we support. To see their success has been remarkable, and that is a true testament to them and, of course, the staff that work here. I really do believe that there are no limits to what our folks can do if it’s presented in the right way. They may not be able to do things to the same extent as everybody else, but that happens in the real world as well.”
Dreams has evolved through the years and has grown to meet the needs of the people served. They have 10 group homes for individuals who require 24-hour supervision. They provide support for four individuals who each live with a family. There are two apartment complexes for individuals who are able to live independently. The apartment where Cameron wants to stay forever is in St. Matthews on Bauer Avenue. The complex consists of three buildings located side by side, with each building housing four apartments. Another apartment, Building Dreams, is on Hikes Lane in Hikes Point. It has eight apartments. Each apartment has one bedroom, a kitchen, a bathroom and a living room.
Frommeyer says the apartment residents are very independent but may require assistance with some tasks such as balancing a checkbook, getting a ride to a grocery store, bank or doctor’s appointment, signing up for public transportation, or learning how to navigate living on their own.
There are currently no vacancies in either apartment and the waiting list is about eight to 10 years long. Applicants must be able to complete tasks independently without staff present. For example, they must be able to use kitchen appliances, take their own medicine and do their laundry.
There is no time frame for how long a resident can occupy an apartment.
“Once people move in, they never want to leave,” says Devon Wasser, director of community support services. “Individuals move in with the intention that they will stay as long as possible. Sometimes people have to move out if their needs become greater and they are no longer able to be independent. Also, we have had residents pass away.”
Wasser says Cameron lived in a group home prior to moving into the Bauer Avenue complex. Her family knew she could live on her own and thought it would have a positive effect on her. They heard about Dreams through word of mouth. Cameron was one of the first residents to move in.
Cameron, the oldest of four children, is close with her family. She helps watch her niece, who has Down syndrome.
“I really love my family,” Cameron says. “I get to see them during the week and they visit on the weekends. I also really like hanging out with my nieces and nephews.”
Wasser says Cameron is doing well living on her own.
“She absolutely loves it,” Wasser says. “Some days are harder than others, but that is the same for everyone. She does need reminders on certain things, but she always gets them done. Her community living support worker, Jennifer Head, and her have developed a really special bond over the years. Katie is where she is today because of the hard work she and her worker have done.”
Wasser notes that the community treats the Bauer residents with open hearts and open arms. The Bauer complex is centrally located to some of the other Dreams homes, and also near many restaurants and shops that the residents love to visit.
“Every single restaurant and shop knows our residents very well and has taken them under their wing,” Wasser says. “All of the owners and patrons have always treated our folks with patience, kindness and the utmost respect. The neighbors also love our residents and have always looked out for them.”
Wasser says Dreams is fortunate to get volunteers from all around the city. Many of the volunteers are high school students in service programs and college students getting volunteer hours. Many people volunteer as a way of giving back.
“They perform a wide variety of tasks including gardening, painting, cutting the grass, building different things needed for the apartment, cleaning, helping with yard sales – the list goes on,” Wasser says. “Volunteers also get to know our clients really well and develop great relationships with them.”
Cameron works at Taco Bell and acknowledges that she has been able to keep her job as long as she has because of supported employment through Dreams.
Her interests include watching movies, playing basketball, faith club, cookouts with peers and visiting the library. She says it feels really nice to be independent.
“I know my family is super proud of me,” she says. “I love having my own apartment to clean. I also like to tell my family about how I can do things on my own. I’m very proud of everything I’ve accomplished over the years. I love my Dreams family.”