HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - An Horry County non-profit is moving forward with plans to build a community for individuals with autism.
The project, called Oak Tree Farm, would be a community and housing for adults with autism and other disabilities.
Sarah Pope, executive director for the non-profit organization, SOS Healthcare Inc, has two sons who are autistic and she always envisioned having a living community where they would be safe and experience independence.
"One of the things that families always worry about is, 'What’s going to happen when I'm not here?' Where will my children with disabilities live?'" Pope said.
The wheels are starting to turn on Pope's project. Right now the organization is working on purchasing 10.88 acres of land on Medlen Parkway in Conway, which will be the future home for the Oak Tree Farm Community.
Last week, the organization posted the announcement on social media and the word began to spread, with hundreds of likes, more than 9,000 views and over 70 shares, Pope said it was her confirmation that the project is needed in Horry County.
"When I saw that, I was like, OK, everyone else thinks this too, and absolutely there's a need and the thing has taken off like wildfire," Pope said. "People are already asking, 'How do we get in? Where's the waiting list? Do you have an application?' We're working on all of that right now."
Pope said she put together a team of people in the community to help come up with ideas with how the community will look and work. The concept is there, but the plans are still in the preliminary stages.
According to Pope, they are gathering ideas by looking at other projects similar to Oak Tree Farm that are done in other states.
The community will consist of 28 single-family homes, with single-room occupancy units in which individuals can rent, live with friends or personal care assistants, and participate in community events. There will also be an amenities center, community pool and an adult playground.
The community will also be close to the Coast RTA bus route, so residents can take public transportation to access employment, recreational activities and other community resources.
Pope said many of their clients want to be able to live on their own, and this is the next level of independence for them.
"We have given people an opportunity to learn how to cook in our life-skills program, and how to manage their money, and go out into the community, and train for employment," she said. "This is next step, and it would be wrong not to do this. It is absolutely the next step.
Jamie Sullivan, with SOS Healthcare, said it’s going to take about $5 million to build this project over 10 years, so there's a lot that goes into it. However, one of the most important parts is making sure that it needs to be affordable for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
They are working on grants and fundraising to complete the project, with the goal of making it affordable for those living there on a fixed income.
The hope is to see a groundbreaking for the Oak Tree Farm community sometime in 2017.
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