Meet Your Neighbor: Over the Rainbow Association

Over the Rainbow Association Logo(Thanks to Eric Huffman and Derek Serafin for their time and consideration)

Every once in awhile, I come across a "hidden treasure": a non-profit, a resource, or some topic that is worth highlighting. On the blog this month, I'm happy to introduce you to an Evanston-based non-profit that focuses on removing barriers for a specific group of people, and who possess an entrepreneurial spirit when it comes to driving social good.

Over the Rainbow is a non-profit whose primary focus is providing affordable, barrier-free housing solutions for people with physical disabilities. Started in the 1970s by a group of parents concerned with finding accessible homes for their kids, Over the Rainbow has grown to include 151 apartments throughout the Northern Illinois area, with expansion plans to include 41 units in Mattson and 25 units in Newport.
Every once in awhile, I come across a "hidden treasure": a non-profit, a resource, or some topic that is worth highlighting. On the blog this month, I'm happy to introduce you to an Evanston-based non-profit that focuses on removing barriers for a specific group of people, and who possess an entrepreneurial spirit when it comes to driving social good.

Over the Rainbow is a non-profit whose primary focus is providing affordable, barrier-free housing solutions for people with physical disabilities. Started in the 1970s by a group of parents concerned with finding accessible homes for their kids, Over the Rainbow has grown to include 151 apartments throughout the Northern Illinois area, with expansion plans to include 41 units in Mattson and 25 units in Newport.
In addition, the Association has an active board which plans several events per year including an October fundraiser with Mandy Patinkin and Patti LuPone), bike rides, and Wheelchair Washes. Over the Rainbow takes an especially business-like approach to building and maintaining its units, as HUD funding tends to focus on newer construction over than purchasing buildings. Using low-income tax credits and other financial incentives, Over the Rainbow has realistic yet ambitious plans for expansion, hoping to have 300 units under ownership and/or management in the next five years.

Over the Rainbow's primary service - its housing units - are exceptional, exceeding ADA standards for housing, providing greater opportunities for adults who depend on wheelchairs for mobility. Besides automated doors and lifts, Over the Rainbow's units also include amenities like roll-in showers, pull-under/front loaded light switches, and slighter greater maneuverability. (For example, bathrooms have a five foot radius allowing for wheelhairs to maneuver more effectively, and most doorways are approximately 48 inches wide). Integrating a more considered aspect to the design of units is a slight variation on the use of tech, which is why they're featured on this blog - although there are consultants to help businesses become more accessible, Over the Rainbow extends that thoughtfulness to its buildings, providing opportunities for a group to truly live barrier-free.

However, with great work often comes great challenges, and Over the Rainbow is no exception. With increasing cuts in state-funded services (including Medicare), many residents of Over the Rainbow's units are facing hard choices, often needing to choose between food and medical supplies. In addition, services like supportive care are also being increasingly cut....but OTR continues to take a much more proactive stance, and has even developed a junior board to move the organization into the digital realm. As Eric Huffman pointed out, although services are increasingly cut, the need for these services is greater than ever, and Over the Rainbow has a strong commitment to providing barrier-free housing to those wishing to lead independent, full lives.

So, you're probably asking yourself what you can do to support....and in that spirit, here are some suggestions:

  • Contact Over the Rainbow to arrange a tour;
  • As Over the Rainbow is moving into the digital realm, they are always seeking volunteers to provide guidance and governance on their board;
  • Participate in one of their upcoming events.

Many non-profits are competing for ever increasing dollars, but thankfully, Over the Rainbow is tackling the challenge. By taking a much more entrepreneurial approach, and focusing on a core mission, they're looking to establish themselves as a strong member of the community, and a good neighbor.

And it all started with a single e-mail....and if you have questions/comments, please leave them below. If you wish to contact me directly, you can do so either via e-mail or Linked In.

As always, thanks for reading!

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