Arizona Dept. Of Housing Honors First Place AZ With 2019 Housing Hero Award

Posted By on September 11, 2019
Denise D. Resnik is the founder, president and CEO of First Place. Photo credit: Sydnee Schwartz

The Arizona Department of Housing has honored First Place® AZ with the 2019 Housing Hero Award for its Innovative Supportive Housing Program and pioneering approach to housing for special populations, specifically for adults with autism.

First Place AZ is working to create housing and community options that are as bountiful for people with autism and other neuro-diversities as they are for everyone else.  

“First Place AZ represents the best efforts of local champions who are committed to creatively solving housing problems in Arizona,” says Carol Ditmore, director of the Arizona Department of Housing. “First Place’s approach to fostering a community, empowering residents to become more independent and engaging public, private, philanthropic and nonprofit sectors to fuel a new wave of housing options for this population is truly innovative.”

First Place-Phoenix, the nonprofit’s new, 81,000-square-foot, $15.4 million residential property in the heart of midtown, opened mid-2018. Ushering in a new era of housing options for special populations, First Place is combining apartments, the residential Transition Academy life skills program and the Global Leadership Institute to advance more independent and community-integrated living options. In addition to 55 apartments, First Place-Phoenix offers residents a suite of supports and various amenities, including a sports pool, culinary teaching kitchen, game room, fitness room and LEGO lounge.

“With a bold vision decades in the making, our board and team are humbled by this award recognizing First Place AZ as both a real estate and community developer,” says Denise D. Resnik, First Place founder, president and CEO. “It is gratifying to see our first residents living their dream of new friends, jobs, increased independence and a supportive community offering all kinds of opportunities.”

The increased prevalence from one in 2,500 children 20 years ago to one in 59 today illustrates a growing population of young people with autism and other neuro-diversities —more than 60,000 annually in the U.S.—now entering adulthood. This poses an increasing dilemma for parents wondering who will care for their adult children when they are no longer able.

More than 6.5 million Americans are living with an intellectual disability. About 835,000 are living with parents ages 60 and older. While designed to attract a population in need of the supports and services offered, the specific design of First Place responds to the largest disability segment in the U.S.: autism. More than three million Americans are living with an autism spectrum disorder.

First Place AZ also received the Housing Hero Award for Outstanding Affordable Housing Initiative in 2014 for First Place’s former Phoenix beta site, 29 Palms, developed in collaboration with FSL.

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