In the late 1980s, alternatives to licensed group homes and residential facilities for people with developmental disabilities (DD) became available through “Supported Living,” a model of home-based service delivery characterized by the separation of housing and services (no organization/individual can provide both housing and Supported Living services to a person with DD, although there are some very narrow exceptions to this under the law), and the requirement that no more than four people with DD live under the same roof. While Supported Living was designed to increase control of people with DD over their home environments and to promote community-integrated living, a major challenge of the new model was the very limited supply of rental property, particularly affordable rental property, for groups of three to four adults – that’s where non-profit housing boards, like Murray Ridge Housing Corporation (MRHC), came in. In 1992, the Ohio Department of DD began to administer a Community Capital Assistance Program through which county boards of DD and their non-profit housing corporations can access funds to purchase or build/renovate housing that is/will be rented to people with DD. The housing boards act strictly as landlord to their tenants (who are primarily people eligible for and receiving services funded/coordinated by county boards of DD) under lease agreements that comport with Ohio’s Landlord-Tenant laws. After a large initial outlay of DODD ‘seed dollars’ to housing boards for property acquisition in the early 1990s, these boards became much more self-sustaining over time.
MRHC, which was formed as a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation in 1992, today owns 31 houses throughout Lorain County and has 113 tenants, all of whom have DD. Supported Living services for MRHC tenants are delivered by DODD-certified private providers; specified by service recipients and their support teams; included in Individual Service Plans that are written/overseen by Murray Ridge Service & Support Administrators; and funded primarily through Medicaid waivers that are administered by the Lorain County Board of DD (LCBDD), and funded through a combination of federal funds (65.12%) and LCBDD dollars (34.88%). In Lorain County, all involved have been extremely fortunate to have a housing corporation governed by highly committed and long-standing board members with significant expertise in areas relevant to the operation of the housing board.
Current MRHC Board Members:
- Jerry Vessalo, Owner/ Midwest Siding Company, MRHC Trustee since 1998, current MRHC Chairperson
- Terry “Pete” Shilling, Attorney, MRHC Trustee since 2012, current MRHC Secretary
- Tim McLaughlin, Certified Financial Planner with White Pines Wealth Management, MRHC Trustee since 2018, current MRHC Vice Chairperson
- Ken Oswald, Semi-retired owner of Carpentry by Kenny Inc., MRHC Trustee since 2019
- Bill Forthofer, City of Elyria Engineering Project Manager, MRHC Trustee since 2022
Losses in the MRHC Family
Sadly, the following four remarkable individuals passed away during their terms of service on the MRHC Board. Each having generously served on the MRHC Board of Directors for many years, we would like to recognize their invaluable contributions to Lorain County residents with developmental disabilities. Current MRHC Board Chairperson Jerry Vessalo provided below some warm reflections on these individuals and their contributions to the MRHC Board.
“Harold, our board’s ‘legal department’, was a dedicated, honest, and true gentleman. He was totally dedicated to his work for the board.”
“Steve was a builder who brought real expertise to our board. He was a great asset for judging the quality of homes we were buying, as well as construction projects we needed to do on our homes.”
“Les was the real estate agent who became a real asset to our board at a time when our board was really growing. He was a wonderful person, a real joy for our board.”
“Pete was a real gentleman who had a great understanding of our tenants, their needs, and living conditions. His passing represents a real loss for our board. He will be missed.”