PHOTOS BY LEXI UJCZO
What if I told you there was an innovative community on south campus you’ve never heard of? This apartment complex is right behind Smith-Steeb on 10th, and it’s called Creative Living. Creative Living allows those with physical disabilities, for example cerebral palsy or different cases of paralysis, to live independently. Everything is accessible for wheelchairs and power chairs, and there are Resident Assistants (RAs) on staff to help 24 hours a day with anything a resident might need. Although in this case, the residents are like friends. It’s a true hidden gem near campus, and people should definitely know about it. I had the chance to learn more about Creative Living from the perspective of Sarah Maggied, the Senior Manager of Donor Services and Development, Olivia Headley, an RA, and Andrew Fox, a resident.
Maggied was able to provide a lot of information about the background of Creative Living. It was established 46 years ago after an OSU football player was injured during a fraternity football game. He became paralyzed (quadrapeligic), and his friends would carry him up and down stairs to classes on campus. He was often at Dodd Hall (an in-patient rehabilitation clinic), and his friends realized there was no place he could live on his own near campus. Creative Living was born after that––there needed to be more accessible housing.
Currently, 25 of the residents at Creative Living are OSU students studying different things and at different degree levels—one resident even runs a club on campus. Other OSU students can find purpose here, too. Maggied said that working at Creative Living is “the perfect job for a college student.” In fact, one of her main goals is to bridge the gap between OSU and Creative Living, as many students don’t even know it exists. Shifts are scheduled in four-hour chunks, and you can study when you aren’t busy helping residents. Creative Living is always looking for more RAs and volunteers, so if you’re currently looking for either, stop over. Working or volunteering at Creative Living is a great opportunity to meet more OSU students and make some new friends in THE process.
A Typical Day
Headley and Fox both found out about Creative Living in different ways. Headley saw the hiring sign outside and has worked at Creative Living ever since. She says that the community makes her feel “hopeful.” She is friends with the residents and does not view herself as some sort of hero or savior; to her, it’s all just people interacting and helping other people. Headley also feels a personal connection to the goals at Creative Living and wants to help.
Fox heard about Creative Living from a peer mentor, after he was injured and partially paralyzed. He originally stayed at Dodd Hall, where they helped show him how to be more independent with things like rolling and getting into his chair on his own. Fox plays Wheelchair Rugby, which usually takes up most of his time. Other days, he exercises at Franklin Park’s fully accessible gym, where he is able to work the machines himself.
Each day is different for RAs and residents, but they usually overlap. An RA may help unload a resident’s groceries or pack their chair into a car, or they like to socialize. Headley says she sometimes hangs out with residents who are her friends outside of work, just to relax or make random fun trips around campus. Residents can call RAs at any time for assistance without the feeling of being watched or someone “hovering.” It is voluntarily requested, and when RAs are friends, it’s more like a quick hangout.
All three people at Creative Living I spoke with want to see more advocacy for accessibility in the future. Headley pointed out how High Street’s sidewalks have pot holes, which is a problem for wheelchairs and power chairs. Making sure everyone has the chance to experience the same things is important, and also a matter of safety. They also want to debunk the assumptions made about people with physical disabilities and show that they can go past their limitations. Fox said that Creative Living to him is “freedom.” They all agreed that everyone should have that freedom in their own space. This place is anything but a nursing home.
As for Creative Living, its main goals are expansion (it currently hosts a full complex of 34 residents and always has a wait list), but not just locally. Fox stressed how all colleges have hospitals near or on their campuses, so there is no reason why there can’t be more facilities like Creative Living across the nation. Creative Living mainly relies on fundraising and partnering with Columbus corporations to continue their program, and they want to continue to do so to ensure a good quality of life for their residents. They’re always looking for volunteers, as mentioned earlier, and Sarah says “I’d never turn away a volunteer; it’s an open door policy.”
Creative Living is so much more than an apartment complex; it has a great and unique community that you can’t find anywhere else. (Though hopefully you can find more in the future!) But, at the end of the day, it’s about the residents and the program coming together to create a space where anyone and everyone can just be.
Creative Living also has outings and fundraising events that anyone who wants to join can go to, check them out below! Proceeds from the events go to keeping the program running strong.
Brew Review at Strongwater on November 7. Golf Outing on September 9. For more information on events, head here.