Independence Hill

[Photo: Young men with developmental disabilities at Independence Hill]

In May of 1997, Toby Schultz, Peder Johansen, and Chris Wright, three young men with developmental disabilities, climbed to the top of a hill in Moscow Idaho. There, Toby raised the American flag, given to him by his Marine brother, and the three young men declared that from now on this hill would be known as "Independence Hill," and would be the future site of housing that would allow people with disabilities to live independently.

On October 16, 2002, Toby, Peder, and Chris learned that their dream had just become a reality. This was the day that Mary Pridmore, Mercy Housing Idaho vice president gave them the wonderful news that HUD had agreed to fund Mercy Housing Idaho's grant proposal to build Independence Hill, 14 units of supportive housing for people with developmental disabilities. The HUD grant awarded Mercy Housing Idaho $1,003,100 for the construction of Independence Hill and in addition provides a five-year rental subsidy of $185,000 to insure that tenants will not have to pay more than 30 percent of their income for rent.

Independence Hill results from collaboration between Mercy Housing Idaho and several Latah County entities. They all supported the same goal: to provide supportive housing for adults with developmental disabilities so they can live at their highest level of independence. Through this collaboration Stepping Stones Inc., provided the site, Mercy Housing Idaho agreed to submit the HUD grant and be the project developer and owner, the University of Idaho Board of Regents granted an easement to the property, The University of Idaho Center on Disabilities and Human Development and the Latah County School districts offered technical assistance, and Arc of Latah County members contributed needed housing information, collected letters of support, and co-authored the grant proposal.

Stepping Stones was incorporated in Latah County to help individuals with disabilities meet their highest level of independence. Stepping Stones Board became convinced of the need to provide housing for adults who could live independently if supportive housing was available, especially those adults with disabilities who still lived with their elderly parents. Stepping Stones purchased a parcel of land for the sole purpose of building supportive housing and then sought a developer who would be willing to build and manage the independent housing development honoring their mission.

After a careful search, the Stepping Stones Board of directors concluded that Mercy Housing Idaho would be the right choice to build and maintain a supportive housing development. The Board of Directors of Stepping Stones asked Mercy Housing to be their developer and Mercy Housing Idaho willingly agreed to undertake this important project.

On Thursday, November 14, at 3 pm, Stepping Stones will host a site dedication at the A Street property to thank all of the entities and individuals who helped make it possible for Mercy Housing to be awarded the HUD 811 grant for Independence Hill. Toby, Peder and Chris will once again raise their flag over Independence Hill. This time they can declare that Independence Hill is no longer a dream but is a reality.

Content Archived: August 15, 2011