Sometimes, the biggest surprises come in small packages—a truth that a nonprofit helping disabled residents live independently has realized through the Angel Fund at the Community Foundation.
Residential Options of Florida (ROOF) empowers individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live independently, increase their income, develop self-sufficiency, and achieve long-term stability. It’s a massive undertaking by any account, beginning with sky-high housing costs and wending through the complexities of individual disabilities and the maze of hoops involved with state, federal, and healthcare programs.
ROOF is a statewide nonprofit with an advisory board in Collier County providing local guidance, and it has recently opened two supportive-living homes in Immokalee and one in Naples. ROOF Executive Director Sheryl Soukup said it wouldn’t have been possible without Angel Fund grants in recent years. One assisted in the creation of the network that led to the Collier County advisory board, and the other supported grant writing services to garner funds for the purchase of the first home with matching grants. “We were able to leverage that funding to get ROOF’s first home,” which was purchased debt-free and renovated to ADA standards to house three roommates, Soukup said. “Without the Foundation, we couldn’t have even gotten that house.”
Through the latest $15,000 grant, ROOF hired an Immokalee-area coordinator to work hand-in-hand with residents on critical tasks that would otherwise derail their hopes of independent living. The coordinator assists with nuanced, and often bureaucratic, paperwork, phone calls, emails, and arranges appointments for obtaining the proper health care and in-home support services. One resident had trouble requesting paystubs from a past employer, while another lost benefits altogether when their paperwork was sent to an incorrect address. “We had pretty extensive work to do,” Soukup said. “People who needed services were able to get them. Previously, they weren’t receiving them. Now they can live in a safe and decent affordable home.”
The Angel Fund offers grants up to $15,000 to small and startup nonprofits that fill an unmet need. Soukup said organizations like the all-volunteer ROOF, which is planning to hire its first employee soon, can’t create change without this type of support.
“We’re still a grassroots organization, still at the startup phase,” Soukup said. “It’s harder for us to compete for grant opportunities with larger, well-established organizations. We’re doing a lot with a little. Funding from the Angel Fund is essential.”