It Feels Like a Neighborhood

A resident stands outside his apartment.

Linda Turner waves from her small front porch at the man sitting across the street on his porch. 

“How are you doing? Do you like this rain?” she asks.

It’s a typical exchange between neighbors. But it is new for this little neighborhood where Mosaic once provided housing exclusively for people with disabilities. Now there are new neighbors: families, single mothers, people who don’t have disabilities.

The neighborhood of eight duplexes was built in 1995. It was a response to a group of families that wanted a campus-like residential area in Omaha for their children with disabilities. The homes are on a tree-lined, dead-end street and there’s a community center, common areas, and a community garden with raised beds – it is picturesque and comfortable. But the housing was segregated; only people with intellectual and developmental disabilities lived there.

Twenty years later, families and people with disabilities desire housing that is not segregated, so Mosaic is transitioning the area. 

“To be respectful of our mission, we have to think about how to make people part of the community,” said Dolores Bangert, Mosaic’s Vice President of Fixed Asset Development.

After 20 years of use, the 16 duplex units needed some updating. Each is receiving a full renovation that brings an open floor plan to the three-bedroom units. They’re getting new, stylish finishes, new driveways and landscaping. Some residents who’ve lived there for years have moved into the newly renovated space, while others have been opened up as low-income housing for the larger community. 

Turner, who lives on disability income since an accident a few years back, has been in hers for just a few months. She said it is like a dream come true because everything is on one floor and it’s all new and modern.

“They give people who are less fortunate a chance,” she said. 

Now, instead of big vans used to transport people who use wheelchairs, you’re as likely to see a child’s play car or bike on the street. 

“We are trying to build community in the place where people with disabilities are,” Bangert said. 

Building community includes social activities for the neighbors, neighborhood council, and other opportunities to interact, like the community garden. 

Dale Smith has lived in the area for 10 years, the last six months in a newly renovated unit. He and his roommate live right across the street from Turner. He said the change has been good.

“The people are friendly,” he said. “There are things to do. It feels like a neighborhood.”

This post originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of Promise, Mosaic's magazine. You can read the whole issue here.

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