Friends of JCDS opens latest remodeled home for 3 women with developmental disabilities

Friends of JCDS opened its 16th residential home to serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Above, Chad VonAhnen (left) and Janel Bowers with Friends of JCDS hosted an open house earlier this month. The home is near West 69th Terrace and Nieman Road in Shawnee. Photo credit Leah Wankum.

Friends of JCDS, a nonprofit supporting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, has opened its 16th residential home in Johnson County.

Located near West 69th Terrace and Nieman Road in Shawnee, the home has been remodeled with wider doorways, smoother floorway transitions among rooms and bedrooms painted to the liking of the future tenants.

Friends of JCDS celebrated with an open house earlier this month.

The group provides support for people receiving services through Johnson County Developmental Supports, an agency that works with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The renovations for this latest home are designed to meet accessibility requirements and make the residence more comfortable for three women who are moving into the house this month as their permanent home, said Janel Bowers, chief development and operations officer for Friends of JCDS.

Janel Bowers (right), said she’s excited for the three women to move into their new home, particularly because it’s accessible and affordable.

“I’m just excited for these ladies to move in,” Bowers said. “They haven’t been in a house that’s accessible. They chose the colors [of their bedroom walls].”

An affordable place to live

Chad VonAhnen, executive director of Johnson County Developmental Supports and board president of Friends of JCDS, also shared his excitement for the new house, especially because the nonprofit is able to keep rent low, giving the tenants more discretionary income.

Rent through Friends of JCDS is $325 a month for each woman, which helps fit within their fixed incomes.

VonAhnen calls it a “life-changing experience” for the residents.

“As you might imagine with the housing market in Johnson County, it’s nearly impossible to find, for someone who is on Medicaid, receiving Medicaid, receiving benefits, to find affordable housing,” VonAhnen said.

A property to call their own

Chad VonAhnen, board president of Friends of JCDS, said affordable, accessible housing is difficult to find in Johnson County.

Of particular note for the nonprofit are the landscaping and gardens both out front and in the backyard.

The women who will live in the new home will get to enjoy fresh blackberries and flowers grown on the property and also explore their interests in gardening.

“They will be able to have their rooms reflect their personalities and interests more — from hanging family photos, to wall color and matching decor,” said Savannah Frye, the senior direct support professional who works with the women. “This move means having a backyard they can officially use without fear of falling due to uneven patios.”

Frye said the new home will also help improve the health and safety of the tenants.

“They will have more money to do things that excite them and bring them joy,” Frye added. “This move means moving closer to other homes where friends reside. It also means a new beginning, one that doesn’t leave the constant thought of what the next year’s rent will be.”

Meanwhile, the nonprofit’s 17th home, which is on Lowell Avenue in Overland Park, is gutted and ready for construction to begin.

And the 18th planned home is set to be built from scratch on an empty lot on Widmer in Shawnee.