Fabian Ertl takes a knife, cuts tomatoes and prepares supper. Next to him is his supervisor Markus Lindler, who could help at any time. But he doesn’t have to, Fabian Ertl can do it himself. The 27-year-old has Down syndrome and lives in a shared flat with four roommates with mild to moderate mental disabilities. Now it’s time for a snack. The five residents were working in the workshop for people with disabilities . It’s now the end of the day, so the atmosphere is relaxed.
The residential community is part of the “Project Rio” of the Franziskuswerk Schönbrunn. The idea of creating better housing for people with disabilities was born as early as 2013, according to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, reports Head of the Residential Division Gerhard Grüner. Among other things, this gives people with disabilities the right to choose where they want to live .
However, the implementation of the project took time. The residents were only able to move into the house on Willy-Brandt-Allee in Riem last year. The “Project Rio” benefits from a cooperation with the two cooperatives Wogeno and Wagnis and is located in their “Rio Riem” – a climate-friendly solid wood building with a total of 150 units. The 20 people with disabilities live in four of them.
The residents do a lot together
“The residents have to be able to live without care at times, they need a minimum of independence,” says Grüner. People who need more support cannot live in shared accommodation. For this, the Franziskuswerk would have had to meet other spatial standards.
The aim of the project is inclusive living. “Here they can live as normally as possible,” says Grüner. The living together of people with disabilities works very well. Clear rules for the kitchen, cleaning or watching TV coordinate life in the flat share. They can be seen on large posters in the common areas. “I feel very comfortable here,” says Ertl. Above all, it is nice to live independently. Like Ertl, his roommates are young adults who previously mostly lived with their parents. In Riem they are now much freer and are not controlled. “Here they can do what they want to do,” reports the supervisor Lindler. The group grows together, the residents go on many excursions together. There are also minor conflicts, but these are quickly settled by the twelve supervisors.
They primarily help the residents with shopping, cooking, washing clothes or cleaning. “We’ll do something together first, so that at some point they can do it themselves and don’t need an assistant,” says Lindler, who noticed great progress after just one year. The care takes place outside of work in the workshop, and some of the caregivers even sleep on site at night. But Lindler makes one thing clear: “We are professional assistants, we are not friends. Then you would lose the distance.” This is the basis for the work.
Nevertheless, the supervisors also take care of the social contacts of the people. One tries to establish and expand this through visits to youth centers or churches. The residents express their wishes, the supervisors then establish contact and initiate the encounter. “The first step is our task, then you get to know the people and break down your inhibitions,” says Lindler. This is how people with disabilities develop a social life.
The neighbors also play an important role in this. “If we create an inclusive form of living, it’s only possible with neighbors who are willing to accept life with people with disabilities,” explains Grüner. The neighborhood in Riem was very open and positive about it. You do a lot together – the neighbors are becoming the norm, the contact with people without disabilities is becoming more and more intensive. It also helps that the neighborhood doesn’t change. The familiar environment offers the residents security, says Grüner.
According to Franziskuswerk in Munich, the project is unique. Only people with disabilities live together in the residential group, which sets them apart from others, explains Grüner. The interest was great right from the start, months before moving in, the places in the apartments were occupied. The project satisfies people’s need to live as normally as possible, says Grüner, explaining the high demand. Nevertheless, he is not perfectly happy: “Even for people who need more help, ways have to be found so that they can live more normally.” He also calls for more tolerance in society. The Rio project has already changed Fabian Ertl’s life significantly, he himself is just happy about it.