Linden Hills convent will become housing for moms with disabilities

The former St. Thomas the Apostle convent in Linden Hills will become long-term supportive housing for working mothers with disabilities such as depression, post-traumatic stress syndrome or low IQs. Tasks Unlimited is developing the plan.

"There isn’t anything out there like this," said Andrea West, program director. "Frequently moms with disabilities lose their children. There isn’t a place they can be with the support they need to keep the family together.

"This is a unification program."

In the late 1980s, Oakwood Residence purchased the convent, 3012 W. 44th St., from St. Thomas. Oakwood ran a 16-bed facility for adolescents and adults with Prader-Willis syndrome, a rare birth defect marked by developmental delays and an insatiable appetite.

Oakwood closed the program in December and sold the building to Tasks Unlimited, West said. Tasks Unlimited has a 32-year record of serving people with a broad range of mental and developmental disabilities.

The new program will keep the Oakwood name, West said. Some of its Oakwood board members will remain.

Tasks Unlimited uses a lodge model, said director John Trepp. Families have their own suites but share a common kitchen. Staff is on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to help residents with group decision-making, financial management, job skills, nutrition and other issues. Tasks Unlimited now has 18 lodges, Trepp said.

The Linden Hills project will serve four families. It is Task Unlimited’s first program with kids.

The program has not begun to select residents, Trepp said. The tentative move-in date is sometime in August.

Welfare reform’s time limits on benefits provided part of the impetus for the program, he said.

"A lot of women who have a good education and one child have left the welfare system," he said. "The ones who are left have some sort of barrier to getting or keeping a job."

All the mothers in the program would be working, West said. Residents will sign a one-year lease, but it is long-term housing if they want to stay.

"The moms can stay until their youngest child graduates from Southwest [High School]," she said. "We intend for the children here to be as successful and have the same opportunities as other children in Linden Hills."

The building needs a new roof and windows and remodeling to accommodate families, West said. Those projects are expected to start soon.

The program will have an annual budget of roughly $300,000, funded by Medical Assistance, county-administered Group Residential Housing payments, and private fundraising, she said.