Loretto is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Community Residence Program, which offers safe and supportive residential living environments for adults 45+ who struggle with psychiatric disabilities.

The mission of the program is “to provide a safe, homelike setting and treatment services for challenged adults that promotes and maintains rehabilitation responding to the desires, tolerance, and capacity of each person served.”

The Community Residence Program began in 1984 with the purchase of its first home on Salina Street in Syracuse. Today, there are three Community Residence homes, two in Syracuse and one in Baldwinsville, where 26 individuals live and work to develop skills that will allow them to live independently again.

Michele Rita Gottschalk, Executive Director of the Community Residence Program, says, “We help people find a safe corner of the world where they can position themselves to stabilize and pursue a life of their choosing.”

Michele Rita, Executive Director, has been with the program for over 37 years and has witnessed the critical need for this kind of care in our community. “Many residents come from mental health facilities and need the structure and the support we offer so they can learn how to live on their own again.”

Homes are managed by a Loretto care team that includes Site Supervisors and Senior Counselors, whom also serve as Case Managers, and Residence Counselors who provide 24/7 awake care. All staff are considered teachers, helping residents learn skills and how to advocate for themselves. For example, they teach residents how to set up medical appointments, manage their medications, and counsel residents on daily tasks like personal care, meal preparation, and household chores.

Michele Rita says, “Each resident signs a contract when they join one of our homes that includes personal goals based on their social and emotional needs and our expectations of their behavior as community residents. Our community is about love and respect, as we all work to support one another, and we have fun together, too. We really consider ourselves a family.”

Like any other family, residents in these homes prepare meals together, take turns doing their laundry and washing dishes; they watch TV and play games together, and have regular outings, visiting stores, restaurants, and community events for fun. Residents from all three homes also get together for celebrations, the most recent being a May Day party at our Baldwinsville home where they enjoyed a barbecue and created a Maypole by wrapping streamers around a pole.

The average stay for a resident is 1-2 years, with some staying longer based on their goal-setting and ability to transition to living independently. Many residents transition to supportive apartments in facilities where they can live independently but have someone check on them regularly to ensure their safety.

In the 40 years since it began, the Community Residence Program has helped 265 individuals to live independently as possible. In the Community Residences and Michele Rita’s office, there are hundreds of pictures of residents since the program began, and just like any other family, these pictures relay stories of love and support. Michele Rita said these residents will always hold a special place in the hearts of those who work and support the Community Residence Program. “The idea of community residences is to help people integrate back into the community while giving them the support they need during that time of transition. We are a stepping stone between mental health facilities and living on their own again, and we help them do that with dignity.”

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