A Place for People With Disabilities to Call Home

Jun 7, 2018

A Tallahassee residential community for the disabled is edging closer to reality. The latest fundraiser for the proposed “Independence Landing” at Southwood gave the project a significant boost.

A piece of promotional literature for the Independence Landing development
Credit Independence Landing

Allison Tant Richard is chairing the Independence Landing board.

“Independence Landing is a new non-profit for Tallahassee. And we are planning to build an affordable, planned residential community with amenities for people with a range of cognitive and physical disabilities,” she explained.

Potential residents might include people like Connor Yates. He now lives with his parents, Robin and Lynn Yates. He said he’d like to change that arrangement. Someday.

“Yeah, but not now!” he remarked, prompting some giggles from his parents. “He is 21 right now, so he’s on a forward trajectory,” said his mom, Robin. “A typical kid. In 10 years maybe?” “Yes!” agreed Connor, to which Robin shot back with a grin, “Five. We’re going to have him ready in five!”

John Leace is a shareholder with the Tallahassee law firm of Brooks, LeBoeuf, Foster and Gwartney. That firm was the title sponsor of the project’s recent fundraiser. Leace also has a special needs child who could one day find a happy home in the Independence Landing development.

“The biggest concerns you have is what’s going to happen to my child when I’m no longer able to take care of them? Where are they going to go in adulthood if I’m not around or physically unable to take care of them. And we’ve now reached a point where with modern medicine and such, people with disabilities are now outliving their parents.”

A home for such folks, Leace insisted, should offer more than just a solitary living space.

“Recognizing the need that is out there for a place with persons with disabilities to reside and to provide amenities so they can learn skills and have the best possible life that they can have.”

Even beyond that, Connor Yate’s mom, Robin said the socialization component is very important.

“He’ll have people around to be friends with. Connor loves friends and never meets a stranger, so he’ll have big fun with that,” she remarked.

Allison Tant Richard posited the need for such a place is undeniable.

“I hear from people every single day who are finding out about it, who want to find out more and want to live in Independence Landing. The other four communities in Florida that are already built have wait lists that are five years long.” 

A 10-year wait, she said, in the case of the Jacksonville facility. One challenge for the Tallahassee project had been where to put it. An early plan to use city property on the northern boundary of the Myers Park neighborhood met with strong neighborhood opposition. Tant Richard said things were different in the Southwood community.

“The neighbors at Southwood have been really receptive and it’s been a sea-change of difference in the attitudes of the people of Southwood, so we’re very excited about it.”

Another source of excitement she said was the end-of-May fundraiser at the Goodwood Museum and Gardens.

“Even to be able to apply for the dollars that are available, we have to have $300,000 raised and banked once we are up and running.”

Independence Landing had two-thirds of that amount going in to the event. Organizers were still tallying the total take from the latest fundraiser as this report was being prepared. Upon crossing the $300,000 threshold, the application process for state and federal matching funds will begin, followed by permitting and actual construction.