Southern Iowa Resource for Families (SIRF) has provided services for disabled residents in Creston for 40 years.
In 1979, SIRF opened its doors as Southwest Iowa Residential Facilities in Creston. Since that time, it has grown from one residential facility to 10 homes across 13 counties with 32 residents and a total of 82 consumers.
The 10 residential homes usually have three to four residents who pay rent for their own bedroom space and share common areas such as the kitchen and living areas. Each resident, with help from staff, is responsible for his or her own groceries and activities.
Staff members are available at the homes 24 hours a day, in most cases, to provide support and supervision for the residents.
Some of SIRF’s consumers live on their own with daily support. One of SIRF’s guiding principles is to promote and enhance the quality of life to make individuals as interdependent or independent as possible.
SIRF director Tina Hampton said, “It is very important for the individuals [with disabilities] to be integrated into their communities and know that they are just as important as anyone else walking down the street at any given moment ... Pride among our individuals is a top priority.”
Creston’s SIRF coordinator, April Hansen, spoke of the role of staff members in teaching the consumers as well as ensuring their safety. She said staff members model independent living behaviors and teach consumers safety skills.
Hansen said when on an outing, staff members model safe behaviors such as looking both ways before crossing the street and being careful of strangers.
Through shopping, consumers work on making their own decisions and, depending on their level of independence, handling their own money.
Hampton said praise from staff members is an important part of helping the consumers learn these skills.
Staff members also accompany consumers to supported employment opportunities and to medical appointments.
Miles Sissel is one of those consumers. Hampton considers Sissel one of their success stories.
Sissel has been with SIRF for 35 years of its 40 years, starting out in a residential facility and progressing to living on his own with daily support.
Hampton said in the early days it was unusual for consumers to move from a group home to independent living. Now it is more commonplace.
At 68-years-old, Sissel is retired from his job at Innovative Industries but continues to go there for Dayhab during the day. Sissel said he enjoys the outings to Crest Haven Care Center where he is able to visit with his longtime friend Wally.
Five evenings a week from 3 to 5 p.m., Sissel has a staff member from SIRF to help him safely do the chores and errands that enable him to maintain his independence.
Sissel said Holly — a support staff member — picks him up from Innovative and takes him home.
Routine is very important to Sissel. On Mondays, he cleans his kitchen. On Tuesdays, he cleans the sink and mirrors; on Wednesday, the toilet.
Wednesday is also grocery shopping day. Sissel, with the aid of his staff, makes his own decisions about which groceries to buy. He often chooses hard boiled eggs and popcorn chicken. He always buys pudding to bring to Innovative for his lunch.
Thursday night is “cook night” at the SIRF office. Staff prepare a meal or take the consumers out to eat.
Sissel said Dairy Queen, where he gets a $5 meal, is his favorite place to go.
On Fridays, Emily — one of SIRF’s direct care providers — takes Sissel to the laundromat to do his laundry.
On Saturdays, Sissel vacuums his apartment.
SIRF also provides important social opportunities for Sissel and the other consumers. Sissel used to bowl for Special Olympics but, as he has gotten older, had to give that up.
He still participates in Special Olympics track and field, but the weather made it difficult to practice this year.
Staff members at SIRF are all certified in CPR and med management and are mandatory reporters. In addition, they receive ongoing training in dealing with behavior issues and crisis intervention.
Hampton said SIRF is very proud of its accreditation through both the state and the Commission on Accreditation of Rehab Facilities (CARF). CARF is an international accreditation group with higher standards than the current state regulations. SIRF has attained three-year accreditation for its supported employment and, by 2020, will have earned it for all of the residential homes as well.
Heartland Management Alliance has overseen SIRF since 2012 along with its sister agencies of Innovative Industries, Support Services of South Central Iowa and CARE in Afton.
The four agencies of Heartland Management Alliance will be holding an open house Wednesday at the SIRF office, 203 W. Monroe St., in Creston.
The public is invited from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to learn about the agencies and enjoy a light snack.