Counselor Courtney Sisson helps client Marcella Chavez with her shoes inside Horizons Specialized Services' new group home in Steamboat II. The home houses three clients and a counselor.

Photo by John F. Russell

Counselor Courtney Sisson helps client Marcella Chavez with her shoes inside Horizons Specialized Services' new group home in Steamboat II. The home houses three clients and a counselor.

Horizons Specialized Services closes on $450K home in Steamboat II

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Marcella Chavez, a client with Horizons Specialized Services starts off her day with a puzzle while Misty Garcia, who just packed her lunch for the day, takes a look at the progress. Chavez and Garcia are residents of a new group home in Steamboat II.

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Horizons Specialized Services recently purchased this home in Steamboat II, which will act as a group home for the organization. The three clients and a counselor recently moved into the home.

A trio of Horizons Specialized Services clients is at home in a new neighborhood this spring.

The agency closed last month on the $450,000 purchase of the former Bockelman home, at 40535 North Star Place in Steamboat II.

Horizons house coordinator Meghan McNamara predicted that once they adapt to their new home, the residents would enjoy the calm environment.

"It's a very open bright house. The previous owners established several bird feeders. It's so nice to sit out on the deck and watch the birds," McNamara said.

Horizons is a private, nonprofit agency supporting people with developmental disabilities in five counties in Northwest Colorado.

Horizons director Susan Mizen said the new adult group home replaces a Horizons residence that was a rental property.

"Last fall our lease came up for renewal, and we decided to look for a house to purchase," Mizen said.

The lease actually ends in May, but her agency plans well ahead any time it contemplates moving its clients to minimize disruptions in their routines.

In this case, Horizons was looking specifically for a home that was entirely on one level. The rental home it replaced had two stories.

"We have some clients who are aging, and we didn't want them to have to go up and down stairs," from a safety standpoint, Mizen said. They also were looking for a home with at least three bedrooms.

Single-story homes are relatively rare in Steamboat, but Horizons had some allies in the search. Board member Dennis Kuntz is a Realtor with Exceptional Properties, as is Marylou Wisdom, of Country Living Realty in Craig. Realtor Pam Lindahl, of MacArthur & Stine Real Estate, along with her husband, Dave Lindahl, who frequently volunteers at Horizons homes, was the transaction broker.

Horizons has five single-family residences in Steamboat, plus some apartments. Of the five homes, three were previously owned and two were rented. The agency could not have contemplated replacing one of the two rentals with a wholly owned home without the revenue from its one mill of property tax, Mizen said. The property tax generated a little more than $1 million in 2008.

"The entire board is grateful for this opportunity afforded by the property tax," Mizen said.

Horizons put down $250,000 on the purchase and borrowed the balance in part to conserve cash reserves in a time of uncertainty about state funding for its programs, she added.

Horizons made an offer on the Bockelman home last fall, but it was rejected and the agency continued its search into late winter. With the options dwindling this spring, the Bockelmans contacted Lindahl and countered the offer, leading to the sale.

"When that happened, we were pretty excited," Mizen said. "We just feel so glad that we got them into a home that is a little safer for them."

When Horizons owns a home, it's easier to install new safety features such as grab bars in a bathtub, Mizen said.

McNamara and other staffers took care to minimize disruptions during the move, to maintain the clients' routines and reduce any anxiety about the move, McNamara said.

The older adults in the home all work nearby, on the cleaning crew at Ace at the Curve hardware store.

Steamboat II does not have mass transit service, but Horizons took the opportunity to place the older residents, who are already dependent on the agency for transportation, in the new home. Because they came from more than one pre-existing home, opportunities opened up to shuffle other residents to achieve a higher level of compatibility.

At the new home, three resident staffers will rotate through each day to be on hand for the residents' needs.

Mizen was pleased to be able to report that one of the neighbors had already sent a welcoming message to the new household in Steamboat II.

"It has worked out so well," Mizen said. "All of the staff is happy about it."

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