ARC of Rockland has introduced Rachel Shemesh as managing director of Residential Services. Ms. Shemesh will oversee the 28 ARC houses and apartments that are home to 189 adults with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. The residences are situated in towns and villages throughout the county. In keeping with ARC’s policy of person-centered services, ARC focuses on providing housing based upon individual needs, interests and aspirations. “Housing is just one aspect of a person’s life,” notes Ms. Shemesh. “Where one lives is, in part, dependent upon how one wishes to live—the proximity to shopping, access to transportation, employment and recreational interests.

“For the person who wants to move to a more independent setting—perhaps from a group home to an apartment with a friend, mastering cooking skills or learning to use public transportation may be essential,” explains Ms. Shemesh. “The individual transitioning from the family home to a group home will need a different set of supports.” Whether or not someone needs ’round-the-clock help, occasional assistance or minimal oversight, these are among the issues relevant to ARC’s Residential Services Division.

“Many people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities are far more capable than they may have been given credit for. Historically speaking, and out of concern and compassion, we sometimes put too many safeguards in place—impeding an individual’s progress towards independence,” comments Ms. Shemesh.  “It is our role to help people negotiate this journey to independence by ensuring that their living accommodations allow them to pursue the lifestyle of their choosing. This means that they should be able to participate in community activities that they find interesting and enjoyable, that they maintain friendships, that they worship as they choose and that they maintain ties with family when they are no longer living in the family home.”

“Through our Community Habilitation Service, ARC arranges for Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) to work with individuals who live in the family homes,” says Ms. Shemesh.  “For one person this could mean that the DSP accompanies the person on a shopping trip to the mall.  For another individual it might mean a trip to the dentist. For a third, it could be a recreational activity. The hours during which the DSP is on hand has a two-fold benefit.  While it helps the individual, it also provides periods of respite for other family members.”

ARC also offers short-term overnight housing for both adults and children. Says Ms. Shemesh, “Respite housing makes it possible for family members to travel out of town for a vacation, for business or for emergencies with the knowledge that that their loved one is in competent hands.”

In upcoming months, ARC’s Residential Division will focus its efforts on restructuring accommodations for an aging population. “We need to be cognizant of health and safety issues that accompany aging. This is particularly important in the area of housing.

“When it concerns young adults, we make every effort to accommodate people who wish to be housemates. Often, these men and women know one another from school or recreation programs. When they think of housing, they want to live with friends,” states Ms. Shemesh. “ARC of Rockland will be also focusing on transitional housing for individuals who look to eventually live on their own.”

Prior to her current position, Ms. Shemesh worked for two decades at New Concepts for Living, an agency providing services and supports to people with developmental disabilities in Bergen County, New Jersey.  She performed as their Executive Director for the last six years where she developed new programs for people with disabilities. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Buffalo, a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology from Roosevelt University in Chicago, and she holds national certification as a Cognitive Behavior Therapist.

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