Courage Court: New housing for disabled opens in Delaware

Del-Mor complex boasts 40 units on about 3.6 acres

Paul Comstock
ThisWeek
Del-Mor executive director Jim Wilson and Courage Court resident-support coordinator Jacie Okojie stand outside the main building at Courage Court, 250 Curtis St. in Delaware.

Formed in 1990, Del-Mor Dwellings Corp. provides housing to about 150 people with physical, mental or emotional disabilities in Delaware, Morrow and Crawford counties. 

The nonprofit has provided housing at a number of locations in the city of Delaware and in October opened its Courage Court complex with 40 rental units on about 3.6 acres at 250 Curtis St.

Executive director Jim Wilson said Del-Mor does more than provide living space. It also provides support for its residents, many who have mental- or behavioral-health disabilities.

"It's not just housing. It's supportive housing. It's a foundation. ... When they've got that, it creates a platform to improve the quality of their lives, (to) get them healthy enough and comfortable enough to participate in community life," he said. "Many of our residents have voiced interest in working, volunteering and finding opportunities to contribute to community life."

Del-Mor's residents have a range of support needs, he said. Some need daily support, and others live with more independence. Whatever their needs, Del-Mor can help them increase their level of independence, he said.

"Just because you have a mental illness doesn't mean you want to gravitate to a life of dependency on other people. You want to live as independent of a life as you can,” he said. “But sometimes the best outcomes end up being when you strike a balance between having a sense of autonomy and independence. ... But to know you've got the supportive housing resources as a kind of base to work from, it's a safety net. So you know if you end up going through a rough patch ... we've got you."

A number of Del-Mor residents were cared for by their parents until advanced age led them to seek an alternative, Wilson said.

Courage Court was discussed at several Delaware City Council meetings before rezoning – the site had been zoned planned-office/institutional district – was approved.

Wilson said council understood "that it makes a better community to live in for everybody to know that if your family happens to be one of those families who has a loved one who could have a need for this kind of supportive housing environment ... it's reassuring to communities to know that it's there."

Courage Court resident-support coordinator Jacie Okojie said a resident might have visits from a home health nurse or aide to check in and monitor medication use. A resident also might have an automated medication dispenser that alerts the resident when medication is to be taken and sends an alert message to a nurse or family member if a dose is missed.

Okojie said a relationship develops between the residents and Del-Mor staff. 

"I think they see us as we're looking out for them. We're building rapport. ... They feel looked after and cared for," she said.

"Half of our staff work on the resident-support side of our operation and are involved in directly providing supportive services and facilitating, monitoring and advocating for delivery of behavioral- and medical-health care to our residents," Wilson said.

Wilson said public safety was an issue raised at a council meeting.

The idea that those with mental or behavioral issues pose a risk is "a fallacy,” he said.

“It's an unfortunate misinformed, uninformed belief in general that folks who struggle with mental illness in their lives are more violent people. They're not. The statistics bear that out," he said.

When unfortunate incidents occur, more often than not the perpetrators "are not getting treatment. Their illness is left unaddressed," Wilson said.

Okojie often communicates with home health-care and other agencies that provide support to residents.

Many residents have Medicare or Medicaid, she said. Many have legal guardians who meet with Okojie to do assessments and make sure residents are connected with support agencies that can include mental-health providers Southeast Health Care, Syntero or Access Ohio, all of which have local offices.

Most residents receive Social Security Supplemental Security payments of about $784 a month and pay a portion of the rent at Courage Court, Wilson said.

Residents typically qualify for food stamps and assistance at food pantries and rent subsidy from one of several sources, he said.

The Delaware-Morrow Mental Health & Recovery Services Board plays a large role in Del-Mor's operations, Wilson said.

The board periodically has contributed mortgage-backed development funding for projects and did for Courage Court. It also annually provides a significant investment to support the cost our agency’s operation, he said.

For Courage Court, "DMMHRSB provided a critical funding commitment to fund rent subsidy for up to 16 of the apartments over a 15-year period of time," he said.

That commitment helped the project meet a competitive tax-credit financing process, which, Wilson said, helped Del-Mor obtain a $6.2 million bank loan for Courage Court.

Issues of mental health affect more people than the Del-Mor residents, Wilson said.

"The demand for behavioral-health-care services by the community is always there and at certain times can be heightened, which is occurring now due to the stress the pandemic is placing on the lives of many of our neighbors and own families," he said.

He said he urges anyone experiencing a crisis to call the 211 helpline.

"If a crisis where a life is potentially in danger, calling 911 is the correct first step," he said.

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