Eden Autism opens new group home in Cranbury Township

Three more individuals with autism are able to live semi-independently in one of Eden’s newest group homes thanks to an extraordinary partnership between Eden Autism and Cranbury Housing Associates.

Brandon smiles outside his new house with his parents, who came to visit him for dinner.

Eden Autism opened its 30th residence in Cranbury last month. Cranbury Housing Associates, Inc. (CHA) — a volunteer nonprofit organization composed of Township residents who effectively develop and manage high quality, affordable housing in Cranbury — worked with Eden to develop and renovate the home.

“The opening of our residence in Cranbury is the product of a lot of hard work and dedication by our friends and neighbors in Cranbury,” said Eden Autism President & CEO Michael Decker. “We are extremely grateful for Cranbury Housing Associates’ shared commitment to supporting adults with autism in their desire to live as independently as possible in a beautiful home and neighborhood.”

Mark Berkowsky, Eden Autism Board of Trustees Chairman and CHA President, knew the property would be a perfect fit for a group home. He worked together with CHA, Cranbury Township, and Eden Autism leadership to plan, develop, and renovate the home. “It’s a public-private, nonprofit partnership between the Township, CHA, and Eden,” he said. “Everyone came together to create this home.”

The kitchen was fully renovated, with new appliances and cabinets.

The house underwent a full renovation to ensure it would properly accommodate individuals with autism. New heating and plumbing systems were installed, along with a handicap bathroom and fully accessible kitchen. Work also included new windows, siding, and roofing, as well as interior finishes.

“It really takes a community working together to develop a home,” said Gia Gore, Director of Real Estate. “We wouldn’t be as successful as we are if we didn’t have our Community Member and Board President, Mark Berkowsky; Board Member, Frank Piazza; staff members Rachel Tait, Chief Program Officer; Edyta Zak-Burns, Director of Residential Services; John Gennuso, Facilities Manager; and the Facilities Team working together with me to ensure all of our Residents’ needs are met.”

As of 2020, CHA developed 129 units of new affordable housing. The organization continues to manage the rental and sale of past projects and short- and long-term maintenance of the properties.

A fully accessible handicap bathroom was added to the house during the remodel.

“We know it’s extremely important to provide the housing opportunity, but the fact that it’s private-public partnership seems to be happening all over New Jersey, driven in part by affordable housing requirements as well as the need for housing for our participants,” said Berkowsky. “It’s a win-win situation for everyone.”

While the renovations turned the building into a house, Eden’s staff took great care to turn the house into a home. From designing the home with each individual’s ISP in mind to ensuring each individual’s bedroom was filled with personal items from their parent’s house to help ease the transition, the house feels cozy and welcoming.

Matthew Connolly, Manager of Residential Services, said it was a smooth transition for the three men, and they all adjusted very quickly to their new home.

For Gore and the entire facilities and program teams, the feeling of opening a new home for the individuals Eden supports never gets old. ”Whenever a new home opens, no matter how many times you’ve done it, it always feels like Christmas morning. It’s a feeling that never gets old,” said Gore.