The components of First Place fit together like puzzle pieces, forming a clear vision of a bright future, and the path to get there.
Live. Learn. Lead.
When you drill down to the details of First Place, breaking away the various petals of the concept and design, these are the words that stay with you. And depending on who you are, they mean different things. For some, they are ambitious destinations—goals set out for those that will very soon come to First Place. For others, for parents and siblings and family members, they are wishes—dreams that their children will become adults who are able to live fulfilling lives, able to learn new skills, and able to lead us into a future that is accepting, embracing and empowering.
More than 1.5 million Americans are living with an autism spectrum disorder. One in 68 are being diagnosed with autism and more than 500,000 U.S. children impacted by the disorder are entering adulthood this decade. When you consider these numbers, the need to develop a place that helps these individuals live and learn, a place that leads the way and carves a new approach becomes imperative.
The facts are sobering. Most individuals with autism will need some type of support throughout their lives, and the average incremental cost to support a person with autism over their lifetime is about $2.4 million.
But what if we changed that outlook, flipped it on its head, and saw things for their potential rather than their cost? What would happen then? What if we taught people how to live, gave them opportunity to learn and lead the way?
Consider the components of First Place
Our Mixed-Use Property: First Place is leveraging the benefits of a supportive urban community created and facilitated by SARRC. This urban area offers jobs, volunteers and recreational activities, continuing education, friends, and an appreciation that individuals with special needs can be productive, contributing members of society and bring out the best in all of us. It is a special community and living, learning laboratory for the residents and students at First Place, and the important work of the First Place Leadership Institute.
First Place Apartments – The contemporary, 50-unit First Place Apartments will be community-connected, transit-oriented and sustained by a suite of amenities and supportive services. Here, residents will find the comforts of home, without the distractions that can make life difficult. The environment will be specially designed to promote safety and security, yet with a comfortable look and feel. Residents may choose to live by themselves, with a roommate or with an aide/mentor.
First Place Transition Academy – Modeled after the celebrated Taft College Transition to Independent Living (TIL) program, founded in 1995, First Place is translating a successful rural- and community college-based program, into the fabric of the 6th largest metropolitan area in the U.S. More than 350 students have graduated from the California program and are living more independently than they and their families ever imagined. The program is also saving the state $300 million based on career-readiness and greater independence early in adult life, and the significant reduction in state-funded support services. Jeff Ross, founder and creator of the TAFT TIL program, recently retired from Taft and has relocated to Arizona to serve as the program director of First Place. He is working closely with SARRC to help the organization build its new residential services program, so SARRC may serve as the program manager and leverage its research capabilities, professional staff and clinical operations.
First Place Leadership Institute – Represented by a faculty of luminaries from across the country, the First Place Leadership Institute is set to focus on pressing concerns at both the local and national public policy levels. Through a National Housing Action Plan, First Place is creating a location and platform for geographically and programmatically diverse organizations united in their mission of creating more housing choices for individuals with autism and related disorders.