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Jax Daily Record Monday, Feb. 26, 200712:00 PM EST

Beyond the Bar

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by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

by Max Marbut

Staff Writer

Grove House was founded in 1993 to serve the needs of disabled people in a group-home setting. The mission was soon expanded to include providing services to disabled people in their own homes wherever they lived.

One of the biggest challenges facing disabled people is finding an affordable place to live. Public assistance checks rarely surpass the $700 a month mark, so, with the help of some state funding, Grove House began buying single-family homes and modifying them to meet the special needs of disabled people.

“We started doing it before real estate really got out of control,” said Shannon, executive director of Ability Housing of Northeast Florida, a new not-for-profit agency that grew out of the original Grove House organization.

“We felt providing support services and being the landlord was a possible conflict of interest and too much control over a person’s life,” she added.

Real estate attorney Robert Jacobs has been president of the board of Grove House for six months. He said he discovered the organization three years ago through a friend who had a child with a developmental disability. Jacobs is also a Jacksonville Real Estate Investors Association board member, so Grove House was a perfect fit.

“It was a natural crossover with my knowledge of real estate and I’m a real estate lawyer. I felt I could add some value to the organization and make a contribution,” he said.

“Affordable housing is a big issue for people throughout the area, but particularly for people who are disabled.

“I think this group is doing some great things. we feel there is a great need for this type of housing for people with all types of disabilities,” said Jacobs.

Ability Housing currently serves 47 clients and plans to increase that number to 70 when eight new group-homes now under construction are complete. The agency also has a long-range plan to build a multi-family facility to serve even more clients.

“The biggest challenge we have is raising money. We are in the process of expanding our board to become more plugged-in into the community,” said Jacobs.

Christina Schwing has been on the board of Grove House Supportive Services and Ability Housing for two years.

Shwing said she first got involved with Grove House while she was a student at the University of North Florida when she picked oranges out of the grove behind the original Grove House in Mandarin and sold them to raise money for the effort. She joined the board after completing law school at the University of Florida and coming home to Jacksonville to practice at Holland & Knight.

“When I came home, I wanted to be involved in the community. I joined the board so I could be more involved in the decisions. Now I’m the secretary of the executive board,” said Schwing.

Ability Housing moved into a new office at 126 W. Adams St. last week and one of the agency’s goals is to become more visible in the community.

“We want people to know about what we do. If they want to come join us and help us, we’re all in favor of that,” said Jacobs.

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