Over The Rainbow Association open house in Rockford July 15

Editor’s note: To re-introduce some of the communities in which its apartment buildings are located to Over The Rainbow Association and its mission, it is conducting a series of events at each building. With respect to its building in Rockford, a 20-unit building known as Harrison Square Apartments built in 2009 and located at 5488 Wansford Way, Rockford, Over The Rainbow Association will be hosting an Open House from 4 to 7 p.m., Tuesday, July 15.

Online Staff Report

EVANSTON, Ill. — Evanston-based Over The Rainbow Association’s (OTR) mission is to increase the quality of life for people with mobility challenges through the creation of affordable, accessible housing solutions that encourage independence.

Over The Rainbow Association was created in 1974 by a group of Chicago-area parents whose children suffered from a variety of physical disabilities. Concerned for their future, the group began visiting existing nursing homes and assisted living facilities around the state, which ultimately added to their worry and fear that there were no affordable and accessible housing options for their mentally alert children once they reached adulthood. Overcoming their feelings of discouragement, the group took matters into their own hands and in 1982 building an apartment community in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago where their children could ultimately live independently while sharing access to personal care attendants for daily care needs.

Now, nearly four-decades later, Over The Rainbow Association has grown from one apartment complex in the heart of Chicago to seven buildings across northern Illinois, including locations in Matteson, Chicago, Evanston, Waukegan, Harvard, Freeport and Rockford. Each of these buildings is barrier-free and offers the residents rental subsidies, which means an individual with no income, other than Social Security or disability benefits, can afford their own residence while living independently. Of these seven buildings that Over The Rainbow manages, it owns five.

Over The Rainbow Association is proud to announce it is opening an eighth building in August 2014 in Freeport, Ill., that it will manage for its long-time partner, Accessible Space, Inc. Over The Rainbow Association is also moving forward with owning its first tax credit building in the southern suburbs of Cook County — Matteson, Ill., when it breaks ground in the summer of 2014. OTR expects this building to open by April 2015. Finally, OTR expects to be managing another building in Chicago by early 2016. These additional communities will create another 97 units, which means the group will be doubling the number served.

OTR has a vision of a greater presence of its unique housing solutions in well-established neighborhoods, both metro and suburban, across the nation through affiliations and partnerships. The waiting lists are deep, however, which is why OTR continues to explore ways to create more housing options for this very special needs population.

Individuals taking advantage of our housing programs want a better life,” said Eric Huffman, executive director of Over The Rainbow Association. “Our residents hire their own personal care attendants who help them with the simplest of tasks, including dressing, preparing meals, and maintaining their apartment, so they can focus on bettering their future, whether it’s by securing a job, enrolling in classes or simply by becoming engaged in the community through volunteerism.”

Each of Over The Rainbow’s apartments provide severely disabled residents with specially designed amenities and accommodations including wheel-in shower areas, lower cabinets and countertops, optional lifts in bedrooms, and refrigerators, dishwashers and stovetops at wheelchair height.

Over The Rainbow Association’s core mission has always been to provide affordable and accessible housing options, and we have done a great job of doing so, but there’s always more work that needs to be done,” added Huffman. “As our organization continues to grow, we are looking at new locations to provide affordable housing solutions as well as for new ways to raise awareness of our cause.”

For more about Over The Rainbow Association, visit www.otrassn.org.

Posted July 11, 2014

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