Brandon and Catie McEvoy, Brandon’s host home provider.

Brandon’s ET figure, which he’s had since childhood.

COUNCIL BLUFFS – For Vodec consumer Brandon B., February 10 was a busy day. He moved into his new host home, began setting up his toy collection, which includes a vintage ET figure he’s had since childhood, and enjoyed an evening visit with friends.

For Catie McEvoy, Brandon’s host home provider, it was a day she’d been anticipating for weeks.

For Vodec, it marked the opening of its 32nd host home in Iowa.

Jade Donovan, Vodec’s Residential Services Manager in Western Iowa, attributes the host home expansion to a growing awareness of this service area and a realization of its benefits for both consumers and providers. “The individualized support and attention consumers receive in a host home helps them grow, and, quite often, they become part of the provider’s family,” Donovan said.

By definition, a host home (known as a shared living site in the State of Nebraska) is an individual or family who supports an adult with developmental disabilities in their home. At Vodec, priority is placed on meeting the needs of the consumer first so he or she may live their best life possible.

Donovan said Vodec maintains a waiting list of consumers and providers, as the residential staff is looking for the best fit that leads to a healthy, long-term relationship for both parties. “We move as fast or as slow as they want to,” she noted.

With Brandon and Catie, the matching process moved swiftly. Catie had prior experience working with adults with disabilities at other agencies, and Brandon was living in an environment not affiliated with Vodec. “Brandon and Catie also knew each other prior to their first meet and greet, which really helped a lot,” Donovan said.

For most consumers and potential host home providers, it’s a bit like putting together the pieces of a puzzle. “We ask a lot of questions, then narrow down our potential matches to two or three and eventually pick the best pairing,” Donovan said. Once a potential match is made, Donovan schedules a series of meet and greets and other activities over the course of a few months. An overnight visit and weekend visit are part of this process. Prior to the first meeting between a potential match, Vodec conducts a multi-layered screening process with the potential host home or shared living provider to ensure the consumer’s protection.

When a successful match is made, Vodec establishes a set of specialized goals for each consumer that the host home or shared living provider works toward continuously. They often involve budgeting, exercise, healthy eating and hygiene.

In addition to lodging, the host home or shared living provider is responsible for transportation, support for medical appointments, meal preparation and housework.

“We’re looking for host home providers who have some background in working with adults with disabilities,” Donovan said. “They also need to be patient and understanding. It’s not a babysitting job – we want our host home providers to work on the goals we set for each consumer.”

In turn, Vodec makes free training available to the host home or shared living provider and assigns Vodec staff to each site who are responsible for monthly follow up and other support. Vodec also hosts at least one monthly activity for all consumers who live in host homes, including Special Olympics competitions in bowling, cheerleading and track and field throughout the year.

For Brandon, the move to his Vodec host home came with an added benefit – several of his friends live in the same apartment complex on the west edge of Council Bluffs. The development, built on a large piece of land surrounded by trees, has an almost rural feel to it, one that welcomes residents to explore the nature around them. “Brandon is now able to walk to see his friends, which is a great way to work exercise into his day,” Catie said.

Donovan said she’s optimistic about Brandon’s future in Catie’s home. “He’s going to be able to be himself – I think he’ll flourish,” she said.

For more information about host home opportunities, contact Donovan at jdonovan@vodec.org in Western Iowa and Sheila Stoneburner at sstoneburner@vodec.org in Central Iowa. For more information about shared living opportunities in Nebraska, contact Kim Hall at khall@vodec.org.

 

Vodec Host Homes | Shared Living by the Numbers

Vodec operates 32 host homes serving 36 consumers in 10 Iowa communities – Council Bluffs, Dallas Center, Des Moines, Glenwood, Grimes, Halbur, Indianola, Modale, Mondamin and Urbandale. In Nebraska, Vodec operates 12 shared living sites serving 13 consumers in three communities – Omaha, Bellevue and Fort Calhoun.

Consumers and providers alike benefit from Vodec’s:

  • Meticulous matching process that places the needs of the consumer first
  • Multi-layered screening process to ensure that consumers are protected
  • Free provider training
  • Assigned staff to support each provider