The Ability Project

Sweetwater groundbreaking ceremony, Sonoma, California, September 2011. Left to right: Kate Hurson, Edward Hurson, Sweetwater President Mark Jackson and Sonoma Mayor, Hon. Laurie Gallian

Sweetwater Spectrum (“Sweetwater”)  is a 501c3 non-profit in Sonoma, California, about 1 hour north of San Francisco (www.sweetwaterspectrum.org). Sweetwater recently broke ground on their new community located on a 2+ acre vacant lot near the center of the town of Sonoma, within convenient walking distance of retail and employment. The land was recently acquired from the Town of Sonoma for about $1.5 Million following an open bidding process in which Sweeetwater was the high bidder. An article about the program published after the groundbreaking can be found here: http://sonoma.towns.pressdemocrat.com/2011/10/news/an-innovative-solution-for-adults-with-autism-sweetwater-spectrum/

Sweetwater’s plans include the following:
  1. Construction of a small campus including four residential buildings with 4 rooms each. Sweetwater will serve a total of 16 individuals, all of which are expected to be persons with autism.
  2. The campus will include a community facility housing a variety of functions including education and fitness functions, as well as a swimmming pool.
  3. The campus will also include land set aside for gardens and an orchard.
The general economics of the Sweetwater initiative include the following:
  1. The total capital budget for the project is approximaetly $9 Million, including land acquisition, planning and construction of the entire campus.
  2. The program has been founded by approximaetly four families with young adults with autism. The founding familes are expected to provide a significant portion of the capital budget, with rent paid by the other residents (and their families) servicing a loan for the balance of the investment.
While the cost of social worker support in Maryland is a major component in the care for an adult with autism, the situation in California is very different. It was reported by Sweetwater that persons born with a disability in California are entitled to State funded, life-long support for both vocational and residential services. Except for perhaps a single employee at the facility, all social worker support for all residents – including awake overnight service – is fully State funded.

Sweetwater site plan with four residences (4 beds in each), community building, garens and orchard