NAFI Rhode Island’s Main Street group home had a magical outcome in 2021.
“I’ve been here 28 years and I’d have to say it was one of the most amazing situations I’ve ever seen,” said Karen Cox, Program Director for NAFI Main Street.
Here’s how the situation unfolded.
A young man with Asperger syndrome who functioned at a level that precluded receiving full disability had come to the group home via the Department of Children, Youth & Families (DCYF) as he approached age 19, entering the program that transitions young men into a NAFI apartment once they make sufficient progress with acquiring independent living skills and get a job.
He was there a year-and-a-half and “successfully went through our entire program without a blink,” Cox said, saving $6,000 to $7,000 in the process.
But he couldn’t hold a job cause of the Asperger’s, which prevented him from moving into an apartment and putting into practice skills such as cooking, paying bills, and using public transportation.
“The license for this particular program is ages 16 to 21 and 90 percent of kids come in because they can’t reunify with a parent or go back home,” Cox explained. “They have to become independent because they have nowhere else to go.”
This young man had a surprise ending in store for NAFI.
Instead of letting the job retention issue become a dead-end, he pursued an interest in magic by obtaining grants to learn the trade, and then he started his own business as a magician.
“He became an entrepreneur,” Cox said, launching a website and getting a business manager to book shows—and now he lives independently in an apartment down the street from NAFI.
“He was just a kid nobody thought was capable, but he just shined and came through on top and it was amazing to watch,” Cox said. “And he’s a phenomenal magician.”
Main Street is a group home that supports young men in acquiring the skills necessary to move forward toward independence. Residents usually step down from more restrictive programs and learn to manage their behavioral health issues as they prepare to make their way in the community. They may attend local public schools, undertake employment while pursuing a GED, or be involved in vocational or higher education. Program staff provide guidance and support to residents in securing ID’s, drivers licenses, using public transportation, applying for jobs and post-secondary education, and increasing awareness of personal responsibility.