CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) — An affordable housing initiative for people with autism and intellectual disabilities is expanding in Conway.
Oak Tree Farm is one of the housing projects under SOS Care, a non-profit that helps people on the autism spectrum thrive on their own by offering programs and resources.
Five years ago, SOS Care purchased 10 acres in Conway to launch Oak Tree Farm. Currently, five residents living with autism stay in two duplexes on the property, but by mid-next year, more than 70 people will benefit from affordable housing and resources this non-profit provides.
“This has been a dramatic change from where I was six, seven years ago,” said Justin Borrero, who currently lives in housing through Oak Tree Farm. “Not leaving the house, always with my family, never talking to now working, driving, going every place with friends.”
Borrero moved into Oak Tree Farm in February 2021. His mother was looking for services that would help him break out of his shell and be more social.
“I’m on the autism spectrum,” Borrero said. “I was able to really open up and get more comfortable of being around people and really starting to develop as my own person.”
It’s been more than a year and Borrero is now thriving in a job where he works from a home.
“I recently started driving,” he said. “I never drove before I got my driver’s license. Most of us have jobs and we go out and either take the bus or drive ourselves to work.”
Borrero is one just one of the success stories of Oak Tree Farm.
“Several years ago, we sat around a table and realized, you know, if you are able to learn independent life skills, you should be able to live away from home, independently if you want, and we would like to help that happen,” said Kathy Grace, director of marketing and events for SOS care.
Borrero shares the home with two roommates, Cody and Mark. These men have benefitted from a range of programs to help them live independently.
“We’ve learned to cook and clean and do stuff together,” Mark David Flannery said. “We’ve come up with strategies like with our disabilities how to work with them.”
Pretty soon an expansion of housing will allow even more individuals to benefit.
“It is affordable rent based on their income and they are the first five,” Grace said. “There will be two new apartment complexes that we’ll be breaking ground for [next week] hopefully.”
SOS Care has been helping families since the 1980s and Oak Tree Farm has been a safe haven for many and will soon change other people’s lives.
“There’s hope for people with disabilities,” Flannery said. “They can do this. Our trainer, Adam Law told us that while we were training back in 2018, he said ‘Guys you can do this. You can live independently.'”
Visit the Oak Tree Farm website to learn more.