JBD digs deep for disabled housing scheme
Upwardly mobile: Hazel Kaye with JBC chairman John Joseph and president Malcolm Ozin at the Bushey site
There was relief, as well as evident satisfaction, as Jewish Blind and Disabled chief executive Hazel Kaye donned hard hat and fluorescent security jacket on Tuesday at the site of its £10 million project in Bushey.
Building work has just started on the 41-apartment independent living development after five years spent searching for the optimum site and achieving planning permission. Some £8 million has been raised from donors during that period - JBD receives no statutory support - and the charity will embark on a final fundraising push in advance of the anticipated opening in the autumn of 2012.
Surveying the barren site, Ms Kaye and fellow JBD staff point out how amenities will take shape, from the wheelchair-friendly level pathways to a sensory garden which the vision impaired can enjoy.
Much attention is being devoted to landscaping and there will be at least 18 car parking spaces for tenants, relatives and carers.
"It's quiet, set back from the road and in the heart of the Jewish community," Ms Kaye said. "It's on a bus route, opposite a Tesco and there are kosher shops nearby. The local community has been extremely supportive, with the League of Jewish Women, Wizo and Bushey shul all wanting to be involved."
The views of some of the 320 tenants in JBD's other London properties have been taken into account in the design of the state-of-the-art mobility apartments. For example, bigger kitchens allow space for washing machines, catering for younger tenants who would rather not use communal facilities. Six flats will be tailored to the needs of wheelchair users, two will be for the resident house managers and there will be two guest suites, enabling families to stay. "I don't think we've compromised on anything," she reflected. "In every way it is spot-on."
As with the other six JBD properties, "we don't want tenants to feel they are living in a charity building. The flip side is that family members often forget that we are a charity."
Ms Kaye added that a feature of the existing projects was how well tenants of all ages and disabilities got on. Around 30 per cent are vision impaired and the youngest tenants are in their early 20s. "Their parents never thought they would live independently. Not only are we setting the tenants free - we are setting their families free."
JBD has a waiting list of around 20 for specific apartments. Another 40 people are known to the charity and Ms Kaye expects heavy demand when the application process begins next year for places in Bushey - the charity's first new property since 2003.
Although not experiencing the difficulties of charities impacted by government cuts, JBD staff were "fighting battles with local authorities to ensure tenants receive the care package they need", Ms Kaye reported. "We are a small charity. Our message is not as loud as the big boys. The challenge is making people aware of what we are doing."