Over the years, the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) has provided funds to help thousands of lower-income Floridians in their communities. To show the critical importance of this program, the Florida Housing Coalition is highlighting some of SHIP’s many successes.
Sherry Ruszkowski, the executive director of The Arc in Bradford County, worked closely with the Bradford County Community Development Department.
Here is her story:
Just a few years ago, The Arc in Bradford County had approval and funding to build a six-bedroom group home for women with various levels of disabilities. “We thought it would be fairly simple because we owned the property,” says Sherry Ruszkowski, Arc executive director. But then the project fell through because the low-lying property would have needed so much alteration that the cost became prohibitive.
“It was very disheartening,” says Sherry. But not for long.
Sherry teamed up with Kelly Canady, the SHIP administrator in Bradford, and they came up with a plan to renovate Stella’s Place, an aging building that was home to disabled women from 49- to 78-years-old. “The big issue was the house had older ladies in it, and it was not accessible anymore” Sherry recalls.
By the end of 2017, Stella’s Place had undergone a major makeover. All interior and exterior doorways were widened according to ADA accessibility requirements. Likewise, all bathrooms were updated to ADA standards,
with walk-in showers, ADA compliant sinks, grab bars, accessible toilets and surface-mounted medicine cabinets. In addition, a new fire control system was installed. Other repairs included features commonly involved in many SHIP rehabs—new metal roof, new windows, new HVAC and septic system and carpet replaced by tile to reduce the risk of residents tripping.
One of the renovations most popular with the residents is a new screened-in porch. “The ladies love it,” Sherry says. Another big hit is a covered walkway to the driveway that includes handrails. “Now when the ladies come out of the house to get on the bus they won’t get rained on,” Sherry says. “The bus can pull right up to the awning, and they don’t have to get wet at all.”
Sherry says none of this would have been possible without SHIP.
“I’m just very thankful that she (Kelly) was willing to step out and try to develop new strategies to help us because without that we would not have been able to get all of the work done on the house.”