LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Las Vegas has one of the hottest real estate markets in the nation. Supply is low and demand is high. But the challenge that potential buyers face is nothing compared to those in the special needs community.
Unlike the able-bodied, many of the valley’s disabled cannot simply move into any home or apartment. A new project hopes to fill some of the void.
John and Lia Riccobene, a brother and sister, have been inseparable since they were children. Both work at Opportunity Village.
“I get a good paycheck and I love it,” said John.
“I like to have a good time with my friends at Opportunity Village,” said Lia Riccobene.
John and Lia’s lives are simple, challenging and beautiful. But their disabilities keep them living with their older sister.
“That’s what I love is being with my family,” John said.
Marie Branchini started caring for John and Lia seven years ago.
“I went looking at some of the group homes. Things would hit me right away. There were things in the hallway, Lia wouldn’t make it through,” she said.
It’s changed her entire life and her home.
“The handrails had to be added,” she said. “It’s like having eternal children.”
This situation is common. Families trying to meet the challenge of caring for older, disabled adults because they are unable to find adequate living options.
“People with special needs could be more independent,” Lia said. “I really want to be independent.”
“This is going to be Betty’s Village some day,” said Opportunity Village CEO Bob Brown.
For years, the non-profit has wanted to turn a slice of dirt in the southwest into something new. A place for people with special needs to have their own special home.
“There are still a lot of people that have intellectual disabilities that are still locked away,” Brown said.
After navigating the labyrinth of government regulation, Opportunity Village is ready to put its plan into action.
“We do day-habilitation and job training and we have our retail store. Now, we’re going to have residential, which is a game-changer,” Brown said.
Betty’s Village is a $30-million housing project to provide an independent home for our disabled community. Access to the care they need in an environment that still lets them live on their own. Brown says it’s just the beginning.
“The goal of Opportunity Village and part of this metamorphosis is that we’re going to get into housing in a big way. The need is there,” he said.
Betty’s Village would have 78 units, a pool, courtyard and medical staff on-site. John and Lia hope they can call it home.
“If I went to Betty’s Village, I’ll be more independent and do some fun stuff,” John said.
And their older sister won’t be far away.
“I want them happy and someplace where they’re cared for, so if something happens to me, they have a good place to be,” she said.
Opportunity Village plans to break ground September 26 and open in 2020.