As Jewish Blind and Disabled chief executive Hazel Kaye stands in the entrance of the charity’s nearly completed £10.6 million development in Bushey, she is passed by a relative of a soon-to-be tenant.
Clearly impressed by what he sees, the relative remarks: “This is more like a hotel than a home.” It is the sort of compliment Ms Kaye is getting used to.
With the first of around 60 tenants due to move into the 39 spacious apartments early in the new year, JBD has been showing off the latest of its seven London area properties while the builders apply the finishing touches.
Last week, the building — named after the late JBD founder, Cecil Rosen — was consecrated by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, assisted by Bushey Synagogue minister Rabbi Meir Salasnik, one of the project’s most dedicated local promoters. The following day, 90 JBD supporters visited for brunch and the opportunity to tour the most modern of buildings, incorporating a plethora of creature comforts tailored to the independent living needs of prospective users.
“The attention that has gone into every detail has been incredible,” Ms Kaye explained. “In a first for us, we worked with a design company which specialises in sheltered housing. They have helped us to take things to the next level in terms of the way the building has been finished and the colour coding, which for partially sighted tenants is really important.”
In the six flats for wheelchair users, there are adjustable kitchen facilities, lower light switches and raised power sockets. But she particularly highlights “the automatic toilets.They are self-cleaning — they wash and dry you — so people can go to the loo on their own. It’s key to retaining a person’s independence.”
The garden area is completely wheelchair accessible and there is also a roof terrace, which “because of the way the building is positioned, will get any sun all day long”. Two additional flats will accommodate the house managers, who will provide 24/7 support. There will also be two guest suites for visiting family, friends or carers. Tenants can socialise in the airy and colourful lounge.
“Our youngest tenant will be 25, we’ve got many in their 30s and 40s, going all the way up to people in their 90s,” Ms Kaye said. “The wide age mix works because it creates a genuine community. We find in our other buildings that, in different ways, younger tenants support older tenants and older tenants support younger tenants. It does work really well.”
The cost of the project has been met entirely from the community. But despite the potential financial commitment, the charity is already looking for another site in the area. “Because we are the only organisation that does what we do, there is a demand on our services. And that is only going to increase as people are living longer and treatment of disability is getting better.”
Ms Kaye pointed out that the Bushey project had taken five years to come to fruition. “It takes time to find a building and get planning permission. It will be difficult to raise the money again but I feel we have time on our side.”