TAMPA — The Graham Home provided housing for 30 adults with special needs at Gracepoint Wellness north of Hillsborough in East Tampa.
Founded by Letitia V. Graham, in memory of her late husband, Edmund Gaines Graham, the building primarily relied on a trust to function. But funds began to dwindle over time, with Gracepoint making up the difference needed to sustain operations.
As the imminent threat of current residents becoming homeless loomed, Gracepoint's staff, led in part by special projects manager Susan Morgan, recognized the potential void that would be left in the absence of any further financing, and they knew action had to be taken.
"We are like their only family for many of the residents, and there is such a need for affordable housing, especially for people with disabilities," Morgan said. "So, we went out and started looking for funding, and were fortunate enough to receive an award from Florida Housing Finance Corp."
Now, a new construction project, similarly called the Graham, is under way and upon completion, it will provide housing and comfortable living to people with disabilities.
The $18 million project is expected to be completed by spring 2017, and will consist of 90 apartments, with added amenities such as a beauty salon, a gym, a library, a lounge and an outdoor bocce court for residents to enjoy.
Gracepoint, an organization dedicated to helping those in need in the Tampa area, has worked closely with the Graham's developer, DDA Development, to complete the project.
DDA principal Bowen Arnold said that the project will include accommodations for a wide spectrum of people, and that the facility's proximity to Gracepoint's service buildings will be beneficial to the needs of each person that will live there eventually.
"The at-risk population will be integrated with a 55-and-older population, so the idea here is not to segregate, but to integrate," Arnold said. "This is a project that particularly excites us because having it be there next to Gracepoint's campus, where services are, I think is really critical."
With apartments coming furnished for future residents, Morgan said there is a public need for donations of everything from pots and pans to towels and shower curtains. Once the Graham opens, Gracepoint's vision is optimistic about what its new facility can do for the disabled and elderly communities alike.
"We hope that not only will this place be a place of renewed hope and a place that they can call home, but they can feel like they can invite their friends over and family and not be embarrassed," Morgan said. "We hope that this will be a model for not just future projects like this, but perhaps it will inspire others.
"I believe it's going to be a community aspect of regeneration within Hillsborough County."
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