Hope to build intentional Kenai community

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Monday, August 3, 2015 9:58pm
  • News

Hope Community Resources Inc., is aiming to break ground this fall for an intentional community in Sterling.

Six local families, each with a member living with disabilities, are choosing to move next door to each other into a handful of homes to be built on the 20-acre parcel. Site plans include a barn for raising livestock, trails and a commons building where neighbors can spend time eating meals and participate in activities together.

“It is a group of people who want to share a life together in a sense of being part of something bigger,” said Roy Scheller, Hope’s Executive Director.

The land was purchased through the Salamatof Native Association for $50,000, with existing agency resources, Scheller said. The Alaska Housing and Finance Corporation will finance the housing units, pending approval from their Board of Directors, he said.

Dennis Haas, a member of Hope’s Kenai Community Resource Team said Salamatof provided the property to the statewide program for an incredibly low cost. A 1-acre parcel in that area can sell for up to $40,000, he said.

Because the plot is for community improvement, Salamatof was quickly onboard to help, Haas said.

It will not be the first intentional community in Alaska, but it will be one of the few.

Hope has locations in Willow, Dillingham and Anchorage where clients have chosen to live in close quarters to act as resources to one another and build their lives together, Sheller said. Most often they already know one another before ground is broken, he said.

In the Willow location five men are living on a ranch, growing their own food and “doing guy things,” for lack of a better description, Scheller said. In Dillingham, three men have chosen to live a subsistence lifestyle together and sell some of their food within the wider community there, he said.

Hope has been looking for property perfect for a community on the Kenai Peninsula for about 3 years, Scheller said. Once the land in Sterling was identified, the City of Kenai had to break up the 20-acres from the larger parcel owned by Salamatof, he said.

Haas said the real drive behind the Sterling intentional community is mother Kathy Fitzgerald, who moved onto the Kenai Peninsula from Anchorage a few years ago. Her daughter Cara is 32 and severally autistic.

Fitzgerald has big plans for their future neighborhood.

She wants to have a horse and garden with her family. One family wants to start a beekeeping business, to make product for themselves and to sell around the central Kenai Peninsula, Fitzgerald said.

“Everybody is wanting that kind of a lifestyle,” Fitzgerald said.

One family has even talked about starting a Bed and Breakfast that will cater directly to families that have members with disabilities so they can have resources available to them while visiting Alaska, Scheller said.

Most people with extensive disabilities don’t have the ability to take on a 40-hour workweek, and need to be engaged for the rest of their free time, Fitzgerald said. Designing an intentional community with built-in recreational opportunities can greatly improve their quality of life, she said.

Building a community of likeminded people from the ground up also provides stability and company, Fitzgerald said.

For the commons areas, Hope will be looking for financial assistance from organizations other than the Alaska Housing and Finance Corporation, Scheller said. Families living in the homes will have to pay rent and likely provide some kind of equity, potentially through labor, he said.

Work will begin on the first two homes in the spring of 2016 at the latest, Fitzgerald said.

“Our families are all worried about having our kids living in a good environment where they are happy and safe when we are gone,” Fitzgerald said. “By having an intentional community you know what that environment is going to be and that is really important.”

Reach Kelly Sullivan at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com.

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