Ken has lived in many different settings along his life journey. When he was four, he went to live with his aunt and uncle in North Dakota. At the age of 10, he returned to Minnesota and entered the Cambridge State Hospital, a large institution where thousands of children and young people with disabilities lived, largely isolated from the rest of society. He lived there for 10 years, attending school and living in dormitories that housed 30 to 60 boys and men.
In 1967, a small residential program for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities opened in Redwood Falls. Now, it’s known as Sevita. Unlike large institutions and asylums, the program offered smaller homes with just a few residents and the chance to be part of neighborhood life. Ken left the Cambridge State Hospital and entered this program. He was part of an early wave of the deinstitutionalization, of which Sevita was a pioneer.
Since 1970, Ken has been served by Sevita’s residential programs in a variety of community-based settings. One of these was an independent living program, where Ken received Independent Support Living (ISL) supports in his own apartment. From there, Ken moved to a community home in Fairmont, where he has lived for the past 14 years.
Over the years, with support from the Sevita team, Ken stayed in contact with his mother, going to see her every year until she passed away in 2013. He also stays in touch with his two surviving sisters. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they used video chat regularly to stay in touch. And in 2021, Ken and his longtime girlfriend celebrated their 40th anniversary with a big party.
Ken loves living in his community home because of the independence he now has. He gets to clean his own house, go for walks, and work on his favorite activities, like word puzzles, whenever he wants to.
“I’ll take the group home over the state hospital any day!” said Ken.
Access and opportunity
Ken has many hobbies and passions, especially travel. He has visited Hawaii, Arizona, South Dakota and Alaska. He is also an avid Minnesota Twins fan, and before the COVID-19 pandemic he attended as many games as he could.
Until it was closed due to COVID, Ken worked at a local business, where he did handicrafts. Church involvement is also important in Ken’s life. For years, he attended the Jehovah’s Witness church in Fairmont. Members of the church have become like a second family for him, and he is a valued member of the congregation. When it moved to a town 20 minutes away, the church and Sevita team worked together to make sure he could keep attending church services and participating in activities. Now church members give him rides so he can always enjoy the services and be with his friends.
Ken’s story shows us what happens when health care looks at the whole person and sees them as more than the challenges they face. People like Ken are thriving in programs across the country, with the support of caring team members committed to the belief that every person deserves to live well.