The New Haven Center for Special Needs Adults in New Albany is expanding due to a lack of space in the current facility, which dates back to the 1960s.
With about 43 clients enrolled in the day program, New Haven provides adults with special needs a place to go and socialize with peers.
But clients have not been coming to New Haven for about the past six months due to the coronavirus pandemic. Officials hope the clients can return in early September.
“They’re eager to get back,” said New Haven Administrator Phil Nanney. “It’s a new adventure every day.”
While the clients have been absent, work on the expanded facility has been underway.
“It’s literally a dream come true,” said New Haven Executive Director Collett Cross about the new building.
New Haven clients engage in many meaningful activities, some of which can enhance their feeling of self worth, said Nanney. Clients may gain a sense of accomplishment by taking part in hands-on activities, he said.
The new building being constructed on Garfield Street will provide more space for the clients to experience everything that New Haven has to offer.
“It’s basically going to be a huge open space with two wonderful bathrooms,” said Nanney.
There was a big need for the new restrooms, Nanney added.
The expansion will add another 2,400 square feet to the facility and will include a covered driveway where clients can be dropped off. The covered driveway means clients will no longer have to be dropped off on the street in front of the building and will be protected from the rain.
The addition of the new building means that more clients could start coming to New Haven. In fact, Nanney said he would not be surprised if there were about 60 clients after the building is done, and “now we’ll have space for them.”
“We would enroll anybody who wants to come and fits the criteria,” Nanney said.
New Haven stays in touch with the local schools’ special education departments to see which students may be future clients. New Haven runs three bus routes Monday through Friday starting at 7:15 a.m. to provide transportation for clients throughout the city and county.
Nanney said the expansion area will allow the clients and staff to spread out and do different things. There will be room for learning centers, and clients can break down into groups. Portable wall units will also allow the room to be divided off into sections for tutoring. Holidays parties could also be held in the new building, which will connect to the existing facility.
A lot of volunteers come to the facility to do activities, such as music and art, with the clients. The Literacy Council and the garden clubs spend time with the clients as well. New Haven could not do everything it does with its small staff, Nanney said, adding that the facility depends heavily on volunteers.
In fact, Nanney said he hopes the garden clubs will provide assistance in terms of landscaping around the new building. The clients could help out with the planting, he said.
The building has been planned for several years and broke ground in May. Nanney hopes it is finished before Christmas.
This is not the only expansion on New Haven’s radar. Nanney said the nonprofit owns all the property on the block except for two houses.
“We have plans for further expansion in the years to come,” he said.
The kitchen at New Haven was recently expanded and improved.
Nanney said New Haven officials see the need for a female residential facility. This could be a house where five or six ladies live with a counselor. It would also be nice to have such a facility for men.
New Haven clients do not spend all of their time in the building. They also go to places such as the park, museum, library and bowling.
Cross said the COVID-19 situation is going to impact things when the clients return. For instance, the clients may not be able to go places they normally go, such as the public library, which is only open for curbside service. Likewise, volunteers, especially those who are senior citizens, might be hesitant to return because they may be worried about catching COVID-19.
Nanney said New Haven has plans in place to make the facility as safe as possible once the clients return. He said the PILOT Club made 100 washable masks for the facility and that the clients’ temperatures will be checked. There will also be hand sanitizer readily available, and the facility will be cleaned daily.
Since the coronavirus began, New Haven has signed up new clients who are waiting to attend for the first time, said Cross.