My son Tres has cerebral palsy. He is non-speaking, uses an iPad to communicate and a power wheelchair for mobility. If you have met him, you probably noticed his long red dreads and pearly smile.
When Tres was 19, his speech therapist encouraged him to write to express his pent-up frustrations surrounding his disability. That moment began Tres journey of writing music. I will never forget the first song he wrote or the lyrics that stopped me in my tracks.
“I have been locked in a mental prison for 19 years and shed many tears. It makes me want to die and fly in the sky to be with my savior.”
I can’t express how much it hurt, as his mother to read those lines. To realize we had somehow missed the depression and spiraling mental health crisis that led to those words. His pain hid behind his smile.
Unfortunately, his feeling of isolation only became enhanced as he experienced “The Cliff.” The phenomenon that happens to individuals with disabilities as they transition from the education system into young adulthood. They become segregated with minimal opportunities for employment, community involvement and inclusive living.
Tres is also number 2 of 5 kids. He has seen his younger siblings leave our home, find their own communities, and live with independence. He wants his own adult life experience. We want to help him live it.
We began the search for housing options for Tres. He does not want to live in a group home or development made only for individuals with disabilities. He desperately wants true inclusion. We found no inclusive housing options in Florida.
We heard about a development called Mainstreet in Rockville, Maryland. Their model was impressive, with 30% of the units set aside for individuals with disabilities and the other 70% open to anyone in the community who would like to live there. Their wait list was in the thousands, and they proved that an inclusion based housing design could safely and successfully be done.
We began dreaming about an inclusive model for Tampa. As a family, we sat around the table brainstorming a name for the development. We wanted something that represented togetherness and belonging. Words that would let every individual know they were an integral part of the whole and their input mattered. Then my oldest daughter shouted out, “a beehive!” She explained beehives symbolize the importance of every bee’s contribution to the betterment of the bee colony. A hive is inclusive and represents community.
There you go. The Hive Inclusive Community. The vision was born.