While Hope Homes in Stow has ceased providing operational services, its executive director stresses that it will continue its business presence at its Call Road site, focusing on providing the physical homes and facilities for those with developmental disabilities.

"The sign [for Hope Homes Foundation] will be out and the doors will remain open," Paul Herrera said. "In fact, we are opening new doors."

Herrera told the Stow Sentry that while Hope Homes Inc. is no longer operational, Hope Homes Foundation will continue, its mission to provide residences and facilities for activities for those with developmental disabilities. "We will own and maintain the buildings but not provide the services."

"We are excited," he added. "We are restructuring the company even though we've had Hope Homes Foundation for over 50 years."

According to its website, Hope Homes is a private, nonprofit organization whose purpose is to develop and provide community-based group homes, supported living, transportation, and day programs for persons with developmental disabilities and other special needs. It began 50 years ago when Margaret Leiphart first shared her vision for a faith-based organization that could support the developmentally disabled through their adult lives.

Hope Homes Inc. had been offering a variety of residential services in group home settings or other independent settings throughout Summit, Greene, Wayne, and Warren counties, sometimes on a 24/7 basis or on a more limited or independent basis. Services for the clients generally focused on teaching and promoting personal choice as well as support in areas such as budgeting, health and safety, personal care, shopping, meals, housekeeping, socialization, and recreation. There were also adult day services provided at its center in Stow.

REM Ohio has assumed providing the services in the homes and day care centers of which Hope Homes will retain ownership. Herrera said Hope Homes has 13 homes in Summit County, including ones in Akron, Hudson, Stow and Tallmadge and served more than 70 clients in Summit County.

An employee at REM Ohio's Akron office said no one was available June 16 to provide information or a comment on REM Ohio becoming the service provider.

According to its website, REM Ohio was founded in 1987 and offers "services and support for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, job seekers facing employment challenges, and individuals with other complex needs."

According to a press release from the Summit County Department of Developmental Disabilities, it was informed June 14 that the Hope Homes Inc. "can no longer ensure the health and safety of those its serves due to financial constraints" and that its operations would cease June 16.

In an effort to ensure the continuity of care, Summit DD said REM Ohio became the provider for the all individuals currently served by Hope Homes.

"Our staff worked with REM [June 15] to verify training and certification records of all Hope Homes direct care staff and those staff are now employees of REM," Billie Jo David, director of communications at Summit DD, told the Stow Sentry. "All individuals are able to stay in the homes they are living in and have the same staff to ensure continuity of care."

"The quality of care individuals receives is our primary concern," stated Summit DD Assistant Superintendent Lisa Kamlowsky in the press release.

"REM Ohio has assured us that they will retain certified staff and that individuals can remain in their current homes," continued Kamlowsky. "This will provide continuity of care while we work with each individual and family to ensure they are able to exercise their right to choose a provider that meets their needs."

Herrera said that "99 percent" of Hope Homes' 120 employees have obtained employment with REM Ohio, with their first day on the new job taking place June 16.

"My goal was to have a safe landing spot for every staff person . . . to make sure they have employment," he said.

Herrera confirmed the ceasing of Hope Homes' operational services was impacted by a suspension and proposed revocation issued to Hope Homes by the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities in July 2016. He said the suspension allowed them to continue providing the services, but prohibited them from taking admissions.

He said two things driving the change were "financial resources to be a provider and actual provision of the services."

"It's tough to be a provider today," he added. "We want to do a good job and if we can't entirely do and meet certain areas that are demanded of us because of financial resources available to us, then we need to step back and have someone come in that can provide these services.

"Then we restructure ourselves and become a stronger company," he added, saying the goal is "to stabilize us financially."

According to Herrera, Hope Homes Foundation will own and develop homes for people with special needs, both by building them new from the ground up and purchasing existing homes. "Our mission is to provide accessible and affordable homes for persons with disabilities . . . we have homes that have never been used that we will be opening in Stark County.

"In today's market, you have to focus on what you do best," he continued. "I think what we do best is we have beautiful homes and maintain them . . . we are going to concentrate on being a housing corporation."

Email: mmckenna@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9430