DCST Swimmer Ashley Kim's Family Looks for Wheelchair Accessible Home

Listed below is an article from the DeKalb Chronicle about DCST swimmer Ashley Kim's family looking for a wheelchair accessible home.

Family looks for accessible property for girl

By DANA HERRA [email protected]

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GENOA – If all goes well, Ashley Kim should be ready to come home from the hospital by February. The problem is, home for the Genoa-Kingston seventh-grader is a second-floor apartment completely inaccessible to her wheelchair.

Ashley, 12, suffered a spinal cord injury in September after diving into a friend’s swimming pool. Ashley’s mother, Jin Hee Shin, said her daughter is paralyzed from the chest down and just recently began breathing on her own. She has been hospitalized since the accident.

“Her projected leaving time is about the end of January, but she can’t come home until there’s a place for her to come home to,” said Andrea Qualls, one of Ashley’s teachers at Genoa-Kingston Middle School and a friend of the Kim family.

It’s not as simple as just moving to a different apartment. There is little accessible housing in Genoa and Kingston, according to staff at RAMP, a local nonprofit agency that provides support and advocacy for people with disabilities.

“It’s very, very hard to find affordable, accessible housing, especially in the smaller communities,” Richard Schaller of RAMP said.

The agency is helping the family to coordinate post-hospital services like rehabilitation and preparing to re-enter school, said Tina Vavra, manager of RAMP’s DeKalb office.

It also is trying to find the family a new home, hopefully in the G-K school district.

“The community has been so wonderful to the family it would be like a double whammy to have this happen and then have to leave,” Qualls said, noting there have been multiple fundraisers for the family by groups including St. Catherine of Genoa church and Ashley’s classmates at GKMS.

The hope is that a landlord with property in the community will allow volunteers to make a rented home accessible to Ashley. Qualls already has lined up willing volunteers from area churches to do the labor, which would involve making the front door threshold flat and making a bathroom wheelchair-accessible.

“I need to find out so my girl can come home,” Jin Hee Kim said. “She needs to come home.”

There is a tax credit available to landlords who remodel their property to make it accessible to people with disabilities, Vavra said.

The exact amount of the credit depends on several factors, including the square footage of the property.

So far, the family has only found one possible apartment, but it’s in DeKalb and the rent is more than the Kims can afford, Kim and Qualls said.

To Help

Landlords with available apartments in the Genoa-Kingston area that are or could be made accessible can contact RAMP at 815-756-3202.