Project Freedom Background Facts
One of the snags of celebrating our 30th anniversary is that people get mixed up on when different events happen. People tend to think that Project Freedom’s original complex, Freedom One, has been around for 30 year too. Actually Freedom One was dedicated in October of 1991, and I was second to move into it in November.
So, what was Project Freedom doing from 1984 until 1990 when construction began? It took that long to find and assemble the financing, and gather the backing for construction. I will be writing about that phase in another column later; however, Project Freedom was not just sitting back waiting to build a building.
In 1985 we received the backing from the NJ Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) to initiate a consumer-directed Personal Care Assistance program for people with developmental disabilities. NJ did not have a program that provided non-medical assistance to people with disabilities where the consumer was in charge. Project Freedom’s program began as the State developed what is now known as the Personal Assistance Services Program.
I actually don’t remember what program came first, and that does not really matter. My point is that Project Freedom was on the cutting edge of change in how people with disabilities were going to be served and empowered to live independently. The years between 1984 and 1990 were spent trying to change the “landscape of disability.”
In this effort, I was able to work through Project Freedom with disability leaders like Bill Ditto, Steve Janick, and Ethan Ellis as they were catalysts for change in the system that disempowered people with disabilities. In many ways the years between 1984 and 1990, which I remember as a blur of meetings, conferences, and being on the road, were crucial in the way the “disability landscape” in NJ is shaped today. Project Freedom was there contributing our voice for change and, in some cases, triggering change as people began to listen.
Norman A. Smith, Associate Executive Director