Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

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April 15, 2008

NIAGARA COUNTY: Program assists homeowners with needs of the disabled

NORTH TONAWANDA — When she bought her ranch-style home in North Tonawanda, Deborah Hastings knew she’d have to make some modifications to accommodate the needs of her 7-year-old daughter, Erin.

She never imagined there would be money available to help her pay for them.

Thanks to a grant from the county’s Access to Home program, the Hastings family was able to expand hallways, add bedroom space and make the bathroom and shower in their Spaulding Avenue home handicapped-accessible.

The improvements make life a little easier for Erin, who lives with fully involved cerebral palsy, to get around, use the bathroom and take a shower.

“This is something that definitely needed to be done, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it, myself, for awhile,” Hastings said. “It is physically so much easier for me to take care of Erin.”

Access to Home grants are available to help qualified homeowners in Niagara County receive financial assistance for various home improvements and modifications, including ramps, lifts, kitchen and bathroom accessibility improvements, as well as the installation of devices to permit the use of an existing home by people with hearing or visual impairments.

Suzanne Shears, executive director of NiaCAP, said the program is designed to not only make home life better for individuals with disabilities, but also for those who care for them.

“It helps make the caretaker’s job of caring for that person a little easier,” Shears said.

To qualify for the program, county residents must meet income eligibility guidelines and other program criteria. The scope of the work and the amount of financial assistance per household is determined following an inspection of the home.

Mark Crage, housing coordinator for NiaCAP’s Rural Preservation Program, said individuals looking for help should simply call for an application.

“I know there’s a huge need out there,” he said.

Contact reporter Mark Scheer at 282-2311, ext. 2250.

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