New Conway community aims to help people with intellectual disabilities live independently

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CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – A new community in the city will try to create a welcoming home for people with autism or intellectual disabilities.

According to the Horry County Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice in 2014, about 30% of adults with disabilities in South Carolina live below the poverty line. About 28% of those with disabilities were employed.

The goal of Oak Tree Farm, according to its founders, is to provide affordable housing for people with intellectual disabilities and help them live independently.

Mark Flannery moved with his parents to Myrtle Beach from New Jersey a few years ago.

“Lifelong friendships will develop and a sense of community will happen,” Flannery said during Thursday’s groundbreaking for Oak Tree Farm.

Flannery is on the autism spectrum and his parents are also his caregivers, but they weren’t sure what Mark would do later in life, so he signed up for Oak Tree Farm.

“My parents are getting a little bit older, so they were wondering what are they going to do after they pass and I have no place to live,” he said.

SOS Healthcare broke ground Thursday on Oak Tree Farm, which is off Medlin Parkway near Conway High School.

“It’s a totally different way of looking at independent housing for people with disabilities,” said Sarah Pope, executive director of SOS Healthcare.

Pope says people with disabilities sometimes struggle to find consistent housing and work.

“We have a tsunami of people who have aged out of school with the diagnosis of autism and we also have all of our friends with intellectual disabilities who have no plan for housing,” she said.

Oak Tree Farm will have transportation access, life skills training and a swimming pool for its residents. Ninety-seven apartment and duplex units will be built.

Flannery will live in the first house, which could be finished by December, and he says he can’t wait for his new home and neighbors.

“It’ll be exciting to be with them, to interact with them, to get to know them and to be friends with them,” he said.

SOS Healthcare says the goal is to complete the complex in five years. The nonprofit is looking for donations to finish the project and you can click here to donate.

There are about 150 people already interested in living on Oak Tree Farm and some are looking to move there from other parts of the country.

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