Accessible apartment living comes to Meridian

12/16/2008

By Susan Christensen
Special to the Advocate

MERIDIAN — Most new apartment complexes advertise their extras. But at Miller Park in Meridian, the emphasis is on what’s missing.

Gone are the architectural barriers that frustrate the physically disabled. Each of the 17 wheelchair-friendly apartments features extra wide doorways, lowered light switches, doorbells and peepholes and fully accessible kitchens and bathrooms.

 “It’s a dream come true,” says retired nurse Beth Causey, a wheelchair user who lived in a nursing home before her recent move to Miller Park.

“I didn’t think I would ever be on my own again,” she said. “When I saw this apartment, I almost cried. Everything is where I can get to it.”

Mississippi Methodist Accessible Housing Inc. (MAH) secured a more than $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to construct the complex at the corner of 29th Avenue and 52nd Street.

Miller Park is just the third fully accessible complex to be built in the state, said Steve Hope, president of MMAH — a not-for-profit corporation sponsored by Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson. HUD and MMAH previously worked together to build Webb Park in Jackson and Wofford Park in Hattiesburg.

“Many disabled Mississippians are independent enough to live on their own if the right kind of housing is available,” Hope said. “But for too long, wheelchair users have had to make do by modifying existing housing. I think they are going to enjoy being in a setting where the accommodations aren’t an afterthought.”

The Meridian complex is named in honor of Dean Miller, and the former chairman and lifetime member of the Methodist Rehab board of trustees said the apartments will help answer a growing need for accessible housing in the state. “The other two complexes are full, and I hope this one will be, too,” he said.

Hope said Meridian got the nod for the third complex site by virtue of its growing population and quality health care. “We opened Methodist Orthotics and Prosthetics clinic in Meridian in 2006, so we’re familiar with the needs of the community,” he said.

Hope said apartment residents are typically people who use a wheelchair or have mobility impairments. Residents are chosen via an application process and rental rates are based on their ability to pay.

Causey said when she learned her application had been accepted, she couldn’t keep her joy to herself. “I was so grateful, I called my brother just hollering and whooping,” she said.

And chances are the celebrating won’t end any time soon. Causey said she has some special plans for her first Christmas at her new address. “The last few years I’ve had to buy a short Christmas tree, but now I’m going to get one at least four or five feet tall,” she said.

For more information on Miller Park or to request an application, call Sandy Nix with Southern Management Company at 662-637-7066.