Guest Interviews — 12 Minutes

Oak Tree Farm! (Part 2)

Guest Interviews — 12 Minutes

Oak Tree Farm! (Part 2)

Oak Tree Farm will be an affordable housing community designed for individuals with autism and intellectual disabilities. The community will include access to transportation, life skills training, an amenities center, a swimming pool, on-site laundry facilities, and more. Oak Tree Farm is a project of SOS Care and SOS Care CEO Sarah Pope joins us today to tell us about this exciting venture.

Dr. Gwynette: We are here again with Sarah Pope from Oak Tree Farm, and Chris has our next question.

Chrisopher: Ms. Pope, what staff will be on site at Oak Tree Farms?

Sarah Pope: Well, in the beginning, so in the first house that we have, there’s only going to be five people living there. So the support staff will be going there twice a day just to make sure everybody’s doing okay, and if they need help or support with anything. But when we build the next phase, there’ll be 50 people that move in. And so when we do that, we will have staff living actually out in one of the apartments, so maybe one or two staff that live there so they’ll be available to help with anything that comes up that people might need assistance with.

And then when we build the community center, which, hopefully, will be next year as well, we’ll be providing different activities throughout the day at the community center, and our staff will be helping to provide that. And then we’ll have people coming in from the local community that will also provide classes, like technology and art and fitness and all kinds of different things. So, we’ll have some other staff that work there and also provide our employment service program and our independent living program classes too.

Chrisopher: Sounds pretty good.

Sarah Pope: Yes. It’s exciting, isn’t it?

Chrisopher: Yeah. And where is Oak Tree Farm located, and how did you choose the location?

Sarah Pope: It’s actually located in Conway, South Carolina. And we chose that location for a couple different reasons. We were looking for something that was close to transportation because we wanted to be near a bus route, so it needed to be on a sort of pretty busy area of town. We also wanted it to be close enough where people could walk to restaurants and other social things that they could do in the community. Because many of our people don’t have a license to drive, so we wanted them to be able to take the bus and be able to walk. And then we also wanted to make sure we weren’t in a very big tourist spot, which, our area in Myrtle Beach is very busy. We have a lot of tourists. So we wanted it to have a more homey feel, where there’s not so many people coming and going and not so much traffic. So that’s why we chose Conway.

Chrisopher: That’s a pretty good choice. I mean, I actually live in between Conway and Bucksport.

Sarah Pope: Do you? Ah, well then, you’re going to have to come check it out.

Chrisopher: Definitely.

Dr. Gwynette: Ainsley, you’re next.

Ainsley: What will the cost be for the residents at Oak Tree Farm, Ms. Pope?

Sarah Pope: Well, the cost will be that they pay rent to live there. So, there is a sort of sliding scale about how you would pay for rent. So it depends on your income and it depends on the type of unit that you would want to live in. So if you were sharing a space with three people, it would be cheaper than if you had a place by yourself, but the rent will be somewhere between $300 and $500 a month.

Ainsley: Wow. That is wicked expensive. I don’t know if I have that kind of money.

Sarah Pope: It seems expensive if you haven’t lived by yourself, but the actual market rate values, so if you’ve got an apartment by yourself without low-income housing, apartments are around $850 a month usually.

Ainsley: Holy cow.

Sarah Pope: Yes. That’s expensive, isn’t it? So that’s why we tried to make them cheaper because a lot of the people that will be living there have part-time employment, or they might be getting social security benefits, so they may not have enough money to pay for what a market rate unit would be. So it’s actually a low-income housing project that we’re building.

Ainsley: Okay, cool. But the prices, holy cow.

Sarah Pope: I know. Being a grownup is not cheap, is it, right? Do any of you live by yourself now? Not yet. Yeah. Being a grownup is expensive, by the time you pay for your rent. And luckily, our rent includes utilities, so you have to pay for electric, you have to pay for water, all of that’s included in your rent. But if you think about that, that’s why we work very hard here to help people find good employment opportunities because they do want to live by their self somewhere and they have to pay for all of those things when they do that. So, when you live at home, sometimes, you get a pretty sweet deal, right? Your mom and dad pay for the mortgage or the rent and you might not have to pay for those kinds of things. But yeah, once you live by yourself, life gets expensive.

Ainsley: Yeah. And then I won’t be able to rely on my mom and dad for money and stuff. I mean, how am I going to make my own money and, I mean, I’m just worried about living on my own. I mean, I have to have [inaudible 00:05:48] with me. I have to have support and stuff and…

Sarah Pope: Yes.

Ainsley: I’m just worried about the whole money part and be able pay off the other things. And…

Sarah Pope: Yes. Well, one of the other things that we’ve been able to do is work with the housing authority, and the housing authority is going to help some of our people with a housing voucher. So if you really are not making enough money to be able to pay for the rent, the housing authority is going to be able to help with the rent cost as well. So we do have some other options for that.

Dr. Gwynette: Great job, Ainsley. So we’ll move on now to Scott with our next question.

Scott: What will Oak Tree Farm be doing about food? And will there be a nutritionist on staff?

Sarah Pope: So, we actually have on our team a holistic health coach, and she helps all of our adults in our programs with finding good choices for food, especially if they have secondary health issues and things like that. So she teaches cooking classes. She helps with food preparation and she does all of those things. So she teaches classes that anybody could go to and learn all of those things.

As far as providing food, I encourage people to use an app on their phone to get their groceries delivered. That’s how I do my grocery shopping. I think it’s the best way to do. So Instacart is my favorite app. I don’t like going grocery shopping and I think it’s easier to be able to make a list while you’re at home and buy your food online to have someone else go into the store and bring it to you. So, we’re teaching people how to use Instacart and other apps where they can have the groceries delivered.

Some people need more help preparing food, and so we would make sure there was some classes and some training for the things like that, that you would need.

Dr. Gwynette: And Miles, are you ready for the next question?

Miles: Will residents be able to have visitors?

Sarah Pope: Yes, absolutely. So it’s like living in any other community, and so if you have… One of the things that we did was we created a roommate agreement. So if you have other people that you’re living with, you would all make the decisions about when is a good time for people to come and visit, is it okay if people stay over for a weekend or a night or come to dinner, and things like that. So within your roommate agreement with the people you live with, you would make those kinds of decisions about when is the best time for visitors to come.

But we would love for you to have your family and your friends and whoever you would like to come visit, be able to do that. So, yes. In your roommate agreement, you would make those kinds of decisions and then you would all agree on it so there wouldn’t be any arguments about someone coming at 10:00 or 6:00 in the morning when people were sleeping, and things like that. You would all decide what time was best.

Dr. Gwynette: Cool. Now we’re going to throw it back to Lee.

Lee: What is timeline for Oak Tree Farm to be completed?

Sarah Pope: So that’s a great question too, and I wish I knew a definite answer to that question, but it’s going to depend on how we get our funding. So the first phase that Lee is moving to, it’s supposed to be finished at the end of September. And I said supposed to be finished because sometimes when you’re building, things don’t always go exactly how you planned, right? So Lee’s hoping to move in, in October if everything is finished. And that will be the first phase. The second phase, once I receive the letter about the grant that we applied for, I would be able to tell you more about when the second phase would be completed. But I think if you look at the entire project, our goal is to have the entire project finished within the next five years.

David: Is there any housing plan for couples, autistic couples?

Sarah Pope: Yes. So, in the agreement that you would have with your roommates, you could decide if you would want to have your partner live in the unit as well, in the apartment building. So, we definitely would encourage people if they’re in a committed relationship and they wanted to be together in their apartment, that, that would be okay with us. So, yes. That’s an option for us at Oak Tree Farm.

Dr. Gwynette: And actually, David has some very exciting news to share with Ms. Pope and the group.

David: I’m engaged.

Sarah Pope: Oh, that’s so nice. Congratulations. That’s very exciting for you. Do you have a date for a wedding?

David: We are [inaudible 00:10:58] whether on during November because my fiance coming back for fall, in a month from now.

Sarah Pope: Oh, that’s so nice. Well, that’s exciting for you. Did you happen to watch Love on the Spectrum? Have you guys watched that show?

David: Yes. I haven’t watched it, but I watched Autism in Love.

Sarah Pope: Okay. So Love on the Spectrum is on Netflix, and it’s a show in Australia about couples and people with autism that were wanting to date or get married. And so it’s a really cool show and it tells a lot about relationships. And so we decided after we watched it that we would create our own dating program here at SOS Care. So it’s difficult to find people, right, to be partners and have relationships and there’s so many skills you have to learn to do that. So we started the class after we watched that show. So I highly recommend watching Love on the Spectrum in your spare time.

Dr. Gwynette: We are here again with Sarah Pope from Oak Tree Farm, and Chris has our next question.

Chrisopher: Ms. Pope, what staff will be on site at Oak Tree Farms?

Sarah Pope: Well, in the beginning, so in the first house that we have, there’s only going to be five people living there. So the support staff will be going there twice a day just to make sure everybody’s doing okay, and if they need help or support with anything. But when we build the next phase, there’ll be 50 people that move in. And so when we do that, we will have staff living actually out in one of the apartments, so maybe one or two staff that live there so they’ll be available to help with anything that comes up that people might need assistance with.

And then when we build the community center, which, hopefully, will be next year as well, we’ll be providing different activities throughout the day at the community center, and our staff will be helping to provide that. And then we’ll have people coming in from the local community that will also provide classes, like technology and art and fitness and all kinds of different things. So, we’ll have some other staff that work there and also provide our employment service program and our independent living program classes too.

Chrisopher: Sounds pretty good.

Sarah Pope: Yes. It’s exciting, isn’t it?

Chrisopher: Yeah. And where is Oak Tree Farm located, and how did you choose the location?

Sarah Pope: It’s actually located in Conway, South Carolina. And we chose that location for a couple different reasons. We were looking for something that was close to transportation because we wanted to be near a bus route, so it needed to be on a sort of pretty busy area of town. We also wanted it to be close enough where people could walk to restaurants and other social things that they could do in the community. Because many of our people don’t have a license to drive, so we wanted them to be able to take the bus and be able to walk. And then we also wanted to make sure we weren’t in a very big tourist spot, which, our area in Myrtle Beach is very busy. We have a lot of tourists. So we wanted it to have a more homey feel, where there’s not so many people coming and going and not so much traffic. So that’s why we chose Conway.

Chrisopher: That’s a pretty good choice. I mean, I actually live in between Conway and Bucksport.

Sarah Pope: Do you? Ah, well then, you’re going to have to come check it out.

Chrisopher: Definitely.

Dr. Gwynette: Ainsley, you’re next.

Ainsley: What will the cost be for the residents at Oak Tree Farm, Ms. Pope?

Sarah Pope: Well, the cost will be that they pay rent to live there. So, there is a sort of sliding scale about how you would pay for rent. So it depends on your income and it depends on the type of unit that you would want to live in. So if you were sharing a space with three people, it would be cheaper than if you had a place by yourself, but the rent will be somewhere between $300 and $500 a month.

Ainsley: Wow. That is wicked expensive. I don’t know if I have that kind of money.

Sarah Pope: It seems expensive if you haven’t lived by yourself, but the actual market rate values, so if you’ve got an apartment by yourself without low-income housing, apartments are around $850 a month usually.

Ainsley: Holy cow.

Sarah Pope: Yes. That’s expensive, isn’t it? So that’s why we tried to make them cheaper because a lot of the people that will be living there have part-time employment, or they might be getting social security benefits, so they may not have enough money to pay for what a market rate unit would be. So it’s actually a low-income housing project that we’re building.

Ainsley: Okay, cool. But the prices, holy cow.

Sarah Pope: I know. Being a grownup is not cheap, is it, right? Do any of you live by yourself now? Not yet. Yeah. Being a grownup is expensive, by the time you pay for your rent. And luckily, our rent includes utilities, so you have to pay for electric, you have to pay for water, all of that’s included in your rent. But if you think about that, that’s why we work very hard here to help people find good employment opportunities because they do want to live by their self somewhere and they have to pay for all of those things when they do that. So, when you live at home, sometimes, you get a pretty sweet deal, right? Your mom and dad pay for the mortgage or the rent and you might not have to pay for those kinds of things. But yeah, once you live by yourself, life gets expensive.

Ainsley: Yeah. And then I won’t be able to rely on my mom and dad for money and stuff. I mean, how am I going to make my own money and, I mean, I’m just worried about living on my own. I mean, I have to have [inaudible 00:05:48] with me. I have to have support and stuff and…

Sarah Pope: Yes.

Ainsley: I’m just worried about the whole money part and be able pay off the other things. And…

Sarah Pope: Yes. Well, one of the other things that we’ve been able to do is work with the housing authority, and the housing authority is going to help some of our people with a housing voucher. So if you really are not making enough money to be able to pay for the rent, the housing authority is going to be able to help with the rent cost as well. So we do have some other options for that.

Dr. Gwynette: Great job, Ainsley. So we’ll move on now to Scott with our next question.

Scott: What will Oak Tree Farm be doing about food? And will there be a nutritionist on staff?

Sarah Pope: So, we actually have on our team a holistic health coach, and she helps all of our adults in our programs with finding good choices for food, especially if they have secondary health issues and things like that. So she teaches cooking classes. She helps with food preparation and she does all of those things. So she teaches classes that anybody could go to and learn all of those things.

As far as providing food, I encourage people to use an app on their phone to get their groceries delivered. That’s how I do my grocery shopping. I think it’s the best way to do. So Instacart is my favorite app. I don’t like going grocery shopping and I think it’s easier to be able to make a list while you’re at home and buy your food online to have someone else go into the store and bring it to you. So, we’re teaching people how to use Instacart and other apps where they can have the groceries delivered.

Some people need more help preparing food, and so we would make sure there was some classes and some training for the things like that, that you would need.

Dr. Gwynette: And Miles, are you ready for the next question?

Miles: Will residents be able to have visitors?

Sarah Pope: Yes, absolutely. So it’s like living in any other community, and so if you have… One of the things that we did was we created a roommate agreement. So if you have other people that you’re living with, you would all make the decisions about when is a good time for people to come and visit, is it okay if people stay over for a weekend or a night or come to dinner, and things like that. So within your roommate agreement with the people you live with, you would make those kinds of decisions about when is the best time for visitors to come.

But we would love for you to have your family and your friends and whoever you would like to come visit, be able to do that. So, yes. In your roommate agreement, you would make those kinds of decisions and then you would all agree on it so there wouldn’t be any arguments about someone coming at 10:00 or 6:00 in the morning when people were sleeping, and things like that. You would all decide what time was best.

Dr. Gwynette: Cool. Now we’re going to throw it back to Lee.

Lee: What is timeline for Oak Tree Farm to be completed?

Sarah Pope: So that’s a great question too, and I wish I knew a definite answer to that question, but it’s going to depend on how we get our funding. So the first phase that Lee is moving to, it’s supposed to be finished at the end of September. And I said supposed to be finished because sometimes when you’re building, things don’t always go exactly how you planned, right? So Lee’s hoping to move in, in October if everything is finished. And that will be the first phase. The second phase, once I receive the letter about the grant that we applied for, I would be able to tell you more about when the second phase would be completed. But I think if you look at the entire project, our goal is to have the entire project finished within the next five years.

David: Is there any housing plan for couples, autistic couples?

Sarah Pope: Yes. So, in the agreement that you would have with your roommates, you could decide if you would want to have your partner live in the unit as well, in the apartment building. So, we definitely would encourage people if they’re in a committed relationship and they wanted to be together in their apartment, that, that would be okay with us. So, yes. That’s an option for us at Oak Tree Farm.

Dr. Gwynette: And actually, David has some very exciting news to share with Ms. Pope and the group.

David: I’m engaged.

Sarah Pope: Oh, that’s so nice. Congratulations. That’s very exciting for you. Do you have a date for a wedding?

David: We are [inaudible 00:10:58] whether on during November because my fiance coming back for fall, in a month from now.

Sarah Pope: Oh, that’s so nice. Well, that’s exciting for you. Did you happen to watch Love on the Spectrum? Have you guys watched that show?

David: Yes. I haven’t watched it, but I watched Autism in Love.

Sarah Pope: Okay. So Love on the Spectrum is on Netflix, and it’s a show in Australia about couples and people with autism that were wanting to date or get married. And so it’s a really cool show and it tells a lot about relationships. And so we decided after we watched it that we would create our own dating program here at SOS Care. So it’s difficult to find people, right, to be partners and have relationships and there’s so many skills you have to learn to do that. So we started the class after we watched that show. So I highly recommend watching Love on the Spectrum in your spare time.

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