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Schools & Program Visits - Dec, 1999 Issue #64 

 Chapel Haven 
Transitional Independent Living Program
New Haven, CT
Judy Lefkowitz, Admissions Director

Visit by Carol Maxym
November 18, 1999

As I parked on Whalley Avenue, I realized I had driven by Chapel Haven many times, but since the sign is a rather recent addition, I had never noticed it. I am glad I know about it now! I spent three informative and interesting hours with admissions director, Judy Lefkowitz and had the opportunity, also, to talk with program director, Phyllis Jacks. I was immediately struck by their dedication, enthusiasm, knowledge, and good humor. 

Chapel Haven is a transitional program for 18-45 year old adults for whom life presents special challenges. Chapel Haven offers adults with IQs in the range of 60-90, a chance to become valued members of society. During their average stay of over two years, their goal is to learn the skills necessary to live independently, maintain a job commensurate with their abilities, discover how to enjoy personal relationships with their peers, and learn to respect themselves as contributing members of society. The staff demonstrate their respect for their students by their firm and gentle guidance and the realistic and realizable expectations they have for them. 

This is not a program for individuals who have acted out, been involved with drugs or alcohol, are prone to violence, or who have experienced severe psychological difficulties, suicide or suicide attempts. Chapel Haven would not be an appropriate choice for anyone needing to be escorted to a program. 

Students attend class to learn the basic skills they will need for the job market. They are all expected to maintain a job, whether full or part time, and the school keeps in active communication with their employers. Each has a bank account and learns how to manage it. Because Chapel Haven is on a main street in New Haven, residents have the chance to interact in the community, patronize shops and restaurants, and experience the feeling of belonging. 

Students work closely with a personal consultant who checks to see that their apartments are clean and neat, helps them plan menus, teaches them how to shop and to cook, and in general, how to develop the skills they will need to live independently upon graduation. The three to five residents who share an apartment eat their dinner together family-style. There are a variety of activities available on the weekends, and residents are required to take part. No isolating here! For many, Chapel Haven may be the first opportunity to find, live with, and enjoy real social interaction their peers. Family support and family therapy are available. 

I had the opportunity to chat briefly with several residents and one graduate as Judy showed me around the facility. The easy rapport between students and staff was a pleasure to see. To me the students were friendly; they seemed happy and purposeful. Outside the main building we encountered five students smoking, (yes, it is allowed outside only; after all, the residents are all adults), chatting, and listening to music together. I couldn’t help but wonder how many of them had ever had such ease in their social relationships before they came to Chapel Haven. 

The apartments are nice, even if a bit sparsely furnished. Residents are required to keep them clean and neat, and if, as was the case with one we entered, not up to snuff, then the counselor will work with the residents to correct the problem. Chapel Haven has recently purchased the vacant lot next door, and they are planning to build a new community center for the residents. 

Copyright © 1999, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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