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Shared Living, the newest residential option available at Black Hills Works.

May 21, 2024 | Black Hills Works Newsroom, Blogs

Black Hills Works offers a range of residential options for those supported in its programs to best meet everyone’s unique needs and preferences. In the newest option, called shared living, individuals are matched as roommates with people in the community. Shared living provides the opportunity to live in a family setting and can be life changing for those who are not comfortable in other residential settings.

Importantly, while many shared living providers are not related to the individual they are matched with, family members can also apply to be shared living providers for their loved ones. Shared living providers are considered contractors with Black Hills Works and receive income for the services they provide. After an in-depth application and screening process, shared living providers go through robust training.

April Cayot has been a shared living provider for Kai Knutsen since May of 2022. She learned of the program through friends who spoke highly of it.

Kai, age 38, lives with April, her son, her granddaughters, and four dogs in the multigenerational family home. April smiles as she discusses Kai’s busy schedule, noting that he’s typically gone all day after breakfast together. “We have regular calendar meetings. Keeping his calendar up to date is very important to Kai.”

Kai loves to use Rapid Ride and Black Hills Works transportation to get to his job at Safeway, the YMCA for exercise, and to other activities. He’s also very involved in Special Olympics, enjoys “Friday Fun” outings with April and his friends, and has met a friend for lunch every Saturday for ten years. At home, he helps with chores and has become part of the extended family.

As a retiree, April appreciates the opportunity to earn an income outside of a traditional work environment. But being a shared living provider is about so much more than that. “It’s turned into a huge blessing,” she says.

Kai’s parents, Dr. Roger and Janice Knutsen, greatly appreciate the shared living program. “Kai still has his own independence,” his mom shares. “He has built a community for himself,” and shared living is an important part of that. She continues, “We can still have our life, our retirement, and we know Kai is well taken care of.”

Shared living providers aren’t on their own, either. April has a network of support and respite opportunities when needed. Black Hills Works staff provide guidance and case management and are always available when questions arise.

Tyler Brink is another individual supported by Black Hills Works who is thriving in the shared living program. His mom has been his shared living provider for four years. Tyler had previously lived in a home with several other young men. While he misses his friends, Tyler and his mom, Trine Brink, say that shared living has brought increased growth.

Like Janice and Kai, Trine says of her son, “He has become more independent. Yes, we’re family, but we’re roommates now. He’s responsible for himself. It’s been an effort on both sides.” Both agree that shared living provides a strong foundation for success in all other areas of Tyler’s life.

As his shared living provider, Trine can help Tyler process challenges and lessons in the moment as they arise. This immediacy helps him be better prepared when similar situations come up again, whether it’s household chores, waiting in long lines, budgeting, or catching the bus to work on time. Trine smiles at Tyler as they discuss his growth, reminding him, “You’re capable of all these things.”

For families considering shared living, Trine says, “The sky’s the limit for how you want to make it work for the person supported. Black Hills Works is very supportive. If you’re discouraged and feel like there aren’t any other options for your adult child, this is a new option.”

If you are interested in learning more about shared living, either as a provider or for a loved one, please reach out to Amanda Diers at (605) 718-6288 to learn more.

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