Open Door adults buy home of their own

Published 11:38 am Monday, April 19, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- By purchasing a home, two developmentally disabled adults from Niles have done exactly what the Open Door program sets out to do.
Bert Everman, 58, and Bobby Sandifer, 36, kicked off the new year by finalizing a deal to buy a home located at 1355 Ferry St. in Niles. The two men had been renting the home for four years and have now become the first Open Door residents to ever purchase a home.
Open Door, an affiliate of Hope Network South, is a supported living program with a mission statement to "enhance the dignity and independence of persons who are disabled and/or disadvantaged by assisting and supporting them in the least restrictive setting."
The program has transitional apartments which give the residents the opportunity to learn the skills needed to live in supported placement.
Miller said Everman has been getting support from Open Door since 1978 and Sandifer since 1997.
Though the two men now own their own house, they are not completely on their own. Brandon Watson, 20, a residential instructor for Open Door, has been providing regular support for the men for the last two years.
Watson began his work with Open Door as a Niles High School senior, through the school's co-op program.
He is now a student at Southwestern Michigan College and continues the part time job to help Everman and Sandifer in a number of ways including paying their bills, fixing things around the house, driving them to medical appointments and helping them to plan their meals.
In addition to giving these men a necessary support system, Watson is also learning a lesson of his own by working with the Open Door residents.
It was not an easy process to help two developmentally disabled adults qualify to buy their own home.
Marsha Watson, Brandon's mother, played a big role in assisting the two men to secure the home.
Watson said she found an institution willing to help, but when they were ready to close the deal, they found there was a stipulation that the company did not provide loans for homes within the city limits.
After months of work, they had to start all over and find another financial institution willing to help them finance this house.
Watson said Best Home Financial worked with them and helped them to close the deal on New Year's Eve.
Everman and Sandifer, who receive income from social security, are now making monthly payments on the 30-year loan provided by Best Home Financial. Everman recently had a job with Leader Publications and Sandifer currently works for the Berrien Springs-based Gateway, Inc., a non-profit vocational rehabilitation organization which assists people with significant barriers through vocational opportunities