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Assisted living with a twist

The Rosemount Court Apartments look like any other apartment building, but inside is something extraordinary. The building, owned by New Challenges Inc., is home to people with physical, developmental or emotional challenges.

Like many of us, the people living in the 29-unit apartment building are trying to build their lives. They just happen to need a little more help.

That’s where New Challenges comes in.

The company offers assisted-living services to people with developmental disabilities, brain injuries and emotional and cognitive disorders.

New Challenges owner Leeann Metzmaker said the residents of the building live independently in their own apartments but receive care such as meals, nursing assistance and therapy. The facility is staffed 24/7.

“This is a real positive thing for our clients,” said Metzmaker.

The Rosemount building offers something unique because it provides assisted living to people under 55, said program director Megan Salmon. She said for people with physical and developmental challenges, there is a huge need for housing options.

State statute prohibits most assisted-living facilities from taking people under 55. For most people facing these challenges, the options are either a group home or living completely independently. Metzmaker said that leaves a lot of people in tough positions.

“I’d like to see the law changed,” said Metzmaker.

Metzmaker said New Challenges tries to fill that gap and give people the opportunity to live on their own while getting the day-to-day help they need.

“It’s a dignity thing,” said Metzmaker.

For Metzmaker, working with people with these challenges is a passion that started in high school. When she was 17, she worked in a group home and continued in one way or another to work with people with disabilities since. She started New Challenges in 1999.

Metzmaker said the company works with Dakota County to create programs that fit their client’s need. Specifically with the Rosemount Court Apartments, she said the county has been willing to experiment.

Metzmaker bought the Rosemount building in 2008. Making the conversion to an assisted-living facility has included a number of updates to the building including putting in a commercial kitchen, installing a fire suppression system throughout the building and making updates to the individual units.

While the improvements haven’t been cheap — the fire suppression system alone cost more than $150,000 — Metzmaker said New Challenges has developed a valuable resource for the people who live in the building.

There have been growing pains along the way, though. Salmon said early on they had issues which often brought the police to the building. She said they’ve learned through those experiences and created a good working relationship with the police department.

“It’s a real positive thing we have here. The tenants are really taking care of themselves,” said Salmon.

Some of the clients will live in the building for years, Metzmaker said. For others the opportunity will be a stepping stone. For many of the clients who live at Rosemount Court, it is their first apartment.

“It’s a boost of confidence that leads to other changes,” said Metzmaker.

In addition to the Rosemount property, New Challenges owns another apartment building and just under 40 houses. The company serves more than 100 people in the metro area.

New Challenges also offers activities to their clients. Metzmaker said providing activities gives clients an opportunity to get out and meet people and be part of a community.

Overall, Metzmaker said their goal as a company is to provide a safe and affordable place to live for people confronted with physical, developmental or emotional challenges. By providing good living conditions, Metzmaker said people have a better chance to overcome their challenges.

Emily Zimmer
Emily Zimmer has worked as a staff writer for the Rosemount Town Pages since 2007. She has a degree in journalism from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Outside of work, Emily enjoys running, reading and gardening. You can follow Emily's gardening adventures at the Areavoices blog East of Weedin'
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