Alijah Keckler is enjoying his newfound freedom.
Last month, the 18-year-old moved into a one-bedroom apartment at McComas Crossing, Starkey’s newest apartment complex designed to help people with intellectual disabilities. It is the first time Keckler has ever lived by himself.
Until now, he has lived most of his life in foster homes. Just last week he was released from state custody and now, for the first time, is his own guardian.
“It’s nice,” he said.
Starkey’s McComas Crossing, near Central and West Street, has 22 units for people with intellectual disabilities. Construction on the $2.2 million apartment complex began in February. Keckler was the first person to move in; additional residents are set to move in through December and early January.
Starkey serves nearly 500 people in the Wichita area, helping to provide employment, life enrichment and case management programs. It has about 45 homes in the area and two apartment complexes where people can live with some staff support.
“It is the final level of independence we can offer people before they find their own apartment and home in the community,” said Colin McKenney, CEO of Starkey Inc. “This is something we had been thinking about for a long time.”
The new apartments are in addition to Starkey’s Kouri Place Apartments, built in 2004 at 140 S. Anna.
“This goes along with our mission that seeks to provide people with intellectual disabilities the highest quality of community housing we can make available to them,” McKenney said. “We take a great amount of pride in the housing Starkey creates. We think it sets the standard.”
Keckler said his favorite part of his new apartment is the shower.
“It’s walk-in,” he said.
He started living in his new apartment on Nov. 22.
“When I first got in, I had trouble staying in it,” he said. “I was scared to live on my own.”
A staff member at Starkey helps Keckler with daily tasks such as planning meals, working with his money and washing clothes.
Before he could become part of the Starkey program, Keckler was a client with the Sedgwick County Developmental Disability Organization. That helped qualify him for McComas Crossing.
According to a news release issued by Jamie Opat, director of communications at Starkey, furniture for Keckler’s apartment came from St. Francis Community Services. He also received up to $300 to help provide him with household items such as dishes, towels and cooking utensils.
Keckler is now looking for a job near his apartment.
“I made new friends here,” he said. “I want to go to college and become an RN.”