Hope House Austin: Still Serving, Still in Need
Tuesday, December 3, is “Giving Tuesday,” a day – a movement – to encourage people to do good, to generously give to the less fortunate among us especially as we approach the Christmas holiday season.
Three years ago, I wrote about a wonderful organization, the Hope House of Austin, Texas: Who they are, what they do and what they need.
“Who they are” and “what they do” have not changed much, except perhaps for adding new facilities, staff and capabilities to take care of an ever- increasing number of special residents. So, it should be no surprise that “what they need” continues to be urgent and essential, especially in an austere financial environment best described by Hope House Development Director Erland Schulze as follows:
A new law has been passed by Congress that mandates all group homes become accredited…the end result is we must raise over $60,000 to make this happen next year…Without the accreditation we will have to close the children’s home…
The following is a shortened version of the September 2016 appeal for your generosity. This appeal, three years later, is just as strong:
Until recently, I didn’t know much about autism or, for that matter, about other intellectual and developmental disabilities, or IDDs.
I also didn’t know that most doctors consider autism “a lifelong developmental disorder,” although there are reported cases of children who have recovered.
Finally, I was blissfully unaware of the unfathomable emotional and steep financial toll parents and families of such children suffer — sometimes lifelong.
No, I didn’t know very much at all about Asperger Syndrome, other Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), and Down syndrome or about so many other severe intellectual developmental delays and physical disabilities afflicting children and adults.
That is until I visited Hope House of Austin, In Liberty Hill, Texas, just north of the capital.
That is until I met a dozen or so adult “residents” at the “House” surrounded by some very special caregivers.
That is until another dozen or so children captured my heart and brought tears to my eyes one Sunday afternoon at the “House.”
To be precise, Hope House, a complex of charming, well-kept buildings peacefully tucked away on five tree-covered acres, has 29 “residents”: 15 adults and 14 children.
To be even more exact, when I visited, Hope House had 28 residents*.
You see, Tom, now 42 and blind and deaf and a resident of Hope House for 42 years — minus two weeks — was in the hospital in town at the time for medical treatment.
Tom was brought to Hope House by helicopter at the tender age of two weeks, in a shoe box. The same shoe box his parents had placed the newborn baby in when they decided they could not or would not take care of him.
Fortunately, Rose McGarrigle, a World War II German emigrant and mother of five, accepted Tom, who was later diagnosed as suffering from Streeter’s Dysplasia, with open arms.
Rose had just founded what would become Hope House, a place where children — and, later, adults — with mental and physical disabilities could find a safe, secure and, most of all, loving home.
Just like Tom, several of the now-adults have been at Hope House almost their entire life.
Take Sam, sitting quietly against the wall, but obviously at peace and interested in the activity around him. Sam is now 46. He arrived at Hope House when he was six months old.
Or take Phillip, who was helping to make soap bars to be sold later at a local market. Phillip arrived at Hope House when he was in his early 20s. Phillip is now 56 years old.
Such crafts activities, “working,” are essential pillars of the care and attention Hope House residents receive, in addition to tending to plant beds, participating in outings, games and other stimulating activities.
There was Brittany, a 14-year old girl, sitting on her bed in one of the charming, cheerfully painted Hope House bedrooms, sporting her protective headgear
One little boy was curled up in his bed, resting, while other children were engaged in activities, closely watched by devoted caregivers. I was told he loves playing with keys. Another young boy was fascinated by my neck chain and insisted on touching it. Other children had similar specific interests.
Soon their attention was diverted and excitement rose as the caretakers announced it was time to go and play outside.
The parents of one young boy at Hope House visit him regularly and feel blessed that there is a place such as Hope House that can give their son the specialized care they could not provide for along with the affection that supplements their own love for Will.
Will is one of the more fortunate children. Many children — and adults — at Hope House have not seen their parents or loved ones ever again since they arrived at the House.
Some were placed at Hope House as toddlers by parents and family members who could no longer — financially, emotionally or medically — take care of them in the manner their disabilities require.
Others have been removed from their homes by the State because of negligence, abuse or neglect and placed at Hope House.
The financial costs of taking care of these special needs children are steep.
You can help by making a donation this Giving Tuesday here.
Lead photo: Hope House resident with staff.
All photos by author or with permission from Hope House
Names of some Hope House residents have been changed for privacy reasons.
* Hope House has 36 residents now. Some of the numbers and other data have changed over the last three years.