The Vision & Architectural Plans

THE REASON BEHIND RACHEL’S HAVEN:

Rachel’s Haven is a ministry of the Charlottesville District of the United Methodist Church. Our motivation for this ministry comes from our deep awareness that all people, regardless of ability, have value, purpose, and something to share that benefits others.  

We are also concerned about the shortage of residential options for people with developmental disabilities. Because of this shortage, many adults with developmental disabilities live at home with their parents, and so some parents are still playing a very active parenting role at 60, 70 and 80 years old. Those parents are constantly haunted by the question of, “What will happen to my son or daughter when I’m no longer able to provide care?”

We also are aware that people with developmental disabilities are just like the rest of us in that many of them want their own place. They want to live on their own, decorate their own living room, decide what they want for dinner, and decide what they will do each day. It is in those small decisions that each of us shape our lives in ways that are meaningful for us.

The Charlottesville District of the United Methodist Church wants to enable people with developmental disabilities to thrive and live lives that are meaningful to them. While an independent living situation is not suitable or preferred by every person with a developmental disability, for many people with developmental disabilities, an independent living situation best supports a meaningful, fulfilling life.

OUR VISION:

Our original vision for Rachel’s Haven is that it will be a place where people with developmental disabilities can truly thrive and shape their lives in a way that is most meaningful and fulfilling to them. With support services, we envision them doing the things that the rest of us do: pursuing vocations that challenge us and help us feel valued, participating in hobbies and activities that we enjoy, having true, affirming connections with other people, and making the small, daily decisions which allow us to express our individuality.  

While our primary purpose for Rachel’s Haven is that it serve the needs of people with developmental disabilities, we also see that Rachel’s Haven can enhance the lives of the other residents of the building who do not have developmental disabilities.

Life in our culture is hard. It places so many demands and expectations on us that we feel exhausted and drained. Even though the world is becoming increasingly crowded, loneliness is a chronic problem in America. The American Dream is that we all have our own house, our own car, our own you-name-it, but we often find that we spend more time taking care of our possessions than we do ourselves or our loves ones. Many of us are left wondering if this is the way life is supposed to be. We are longing for more connection and more support.

We intend for life at Rachel’s Haven to be different. Although each individual or household will have their own apartment, we intend to foster a sense of true community where neighbors in the building not only know each other, but also value each other and help each other. For example, one neighbor might help the other figure out who to call to dispute a credit card charge, and the other neighbor might help carry the groceries in or reach the box on the high shelf in the closet. We have designed the building in such a way that the very structure will facilitate the interaction of neighbors, but we are also planning to intentionally foster an environment through occasional gatherings so that folks at Rachel’s Haven will know each other and will be neighbors to each other in the fullest sense.  

Since Hinton Avenue United Methodist Church and the apartment building will be physically connected, the potential exists for members of the church congregation and residents of the apartments to become “extended family” to each other. This apartment building can be a real blessing for everyone who lives at Rachel’s Haven.

Our Vision Statement:
We envision a supportive community where each person feels that his unique gifts and talents are valued and utilized for the good of the community, where each person feels respected and enjoyed, and where each person looks out for his neighbors. We long for a community that is welcoming and safe for all people, including people with intellectual disabilities.

Information from Our Architect:
The current plan for Rachel’s Haven is that it will consist of fifteen apartments. Most of the apartments will be two-bedroom apartments. The apartments for our residents who have developmental disabilities will be no different than those for the general population, with the exception that technology will be added to those apartments to help us assure the safety of our residents who have developmental disabilities.

The proposed project is to renovate a portion of Hinton Avenue Church’s education wing into apartments. There would also be an attached compatible addition that would include apartments, giving the apartment project its own front door and identity, separate from the church. Other components of the project include parking, landscaping, courtyard and other amenities. The church and the apartments may share the community hall space and kitchen. This allows the space to be well utilized throughout the week, giving the apartment residents a place for communal events, meetings, and shared recreational space. The church will continue to function as a neighborhood community of faith.

This apartment project is seen as contributing to the pedestrian nature of Hinton Avenue. The building addition concept is designed to fit the character of the neighborhood, and work in concert with the historic adjacent church. Because it is likely that there will not be a large percentage of individual car drivers, the population served is anticipated to depend on the pedestrian environment for work, activities and for service. This project is seen almost as in a symbiotic relation between its residents and the larger neighborhood.

This project and its required rezoning specifically seeks to provide housing units that encourage those with developmental disabilities to live as independently as possible.

The main goal of this project, providing independent living for those with developmental disabilities, puts it squarely in line with this goal of Charlottesville’s Comprehensive plan. From the Housing chapter of the Charlottesville comprehensive Plan 2013, Goal 2 is to maintain and improve “housing stock for residents of all income levels.” It seeks to “accommodate the housing needs of low-income households, seniors and those with disabilities.” It promotes the incorporation of “standards that address visit-ability and live-ability.” And it supports “those with challenges that would otherwise prevent independent living.”

Value 3 in the Charlottesville Comprehensive Plan 2013, “Our neighborhoods retain a core historic fabric while offering housing that is affordable and attainable for people of all income levels, racial backgrounds, life stages, and abilities.” It goes on to say that our neighborhoods feature a variety of housing types, including higher density, pedestrian and transit-oriented housing at employment and cultural centers.

To enable our vision and the apartment project happen here, the current zoning for single family houses needs to change to a zone that provides for multifamily uses. Because the Hinton Avenue Church will continue to be a vibrant part of the community it is appropriate that the zoning for the parcel be changed to the Neighborhood Commercial Corridor, or NCC, zone so that the Church can remain on the parcel, as well as the apartments as a mixed use. The majority of nearby downtown Belmont is in the NCC zone.  We are currently working with the City of Charlottesville to pursue the needed change in zoning of this property.

 

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