From 1970s until Today
Western North Carolina Group Home for Autistic Persons, Inc. (known as WNC Group Homes) began in the mid-seventies with a group of parents and professionals who were concerned about what was going to happen to the adults and children with autism in our area as they and their parents aged. At that time in North Carolina, very few services existed for persons with developmental disabilities in a community setting. Residential services for individuals with complex needs were addressed only in state facilities like Western Carolina Center and Black Mountain Center.
Our agency’s first home–Ora Street Group Home–opened in October of 1984 for five male residents. This was only the eighth ICF/IID group home in the state. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funded the construction of the home.
In 1989, the Board of Directors decided to expand services to more individuals diagnosed with autism as the waiting list grew and North Carolina expanded community services. Two Certificate of Need (CON) applications were submitted. One allowed for the expansion of the Ora Street Group Home from five to six beds (effective in 1991). The second CON permitted WNC Group Homes to build and operate a second group home.
Since the state legislature diverted funds from Black Mountain Center to fund the development of community services, WNC Group Homes took advantage of these funds to build the Pisgah View Group Home. This second group home for the agency opened in 1991. Along with the Ora Street Group Home, the Pisgah View Group Home is intended to serve adults. However, these six adults–both male and female–are regarded as higher functioning individuals than those at the initial group home.
While the state continued the expansion of services to the type of individuals served by WNC Group Homes, the agency built two more group homes. The third group home–Kenmore Group Home–opened for boys and girls aged 7-13 in 1992. We expected their placement to be more intensive and shorter-term. The main goal was to provide children with a structured living setting to assist the child with decreasing some of the behaviors related to their autism, with a focus on returning them to their family home or other appropriate placement.
The fourth group home, initially licensed as the Pine Spring Group Home, began serving a coed population of very high functioning adults in 1994. As a Developmentally Disabled Adult (DDA) group home, funding differs significantly from the other ICF/IID group homes. The residents must address all their own self-help needs and independently manage their time. Generally, these residents work in the community. Frequently, only one staff person is available at the home–in contrast to the much higher staff to resident ratio maintained at the ICF-IID group homes.
The fifth group home opened in 1995 for five male and female adolescents. The Montford Group Home serves individuals from 13 to 18 years of age (or until age 21 if they are still in school). While providing the least restrictive setting possible, our goal is to prepare these residents for adult life. Some residents spend a few years and return to a family home, while others stay until they age out.
From 2001 through 2005, our agency witnessed a decline in requests for admission for children and adolescents. North Carolina ceased the licensing of new ICF/IID group homes, and increased community-based services such as the CAP and CBS service provisions. With these factors in mind, the Board of Directors chose to request a modification of the original Certificate of Need for both the Kenmore Group Home and the Montford Group Home. We received permission to increase the admission age for applicants as well as “age up” the homes. Consequently, Kenmore Group Home now serves adolescents and young adults while Montford Group Home serves older adolescents and young adults.
After one of our longer-term employees died in 2006, the Board of Directors voted to recognize her contributions to WNC Group Homes as well as the residents of the Pine Spring Group Home. Thus, the agency’s fourth group home became the Gwen Rash Memorial Group Home.
During 2010 we built a replacement group home for the residents of Montford Group Home. This newest home is located on Kenmore Streeet, next to the Kenmore Group Home.