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December 5, 2002

Working house for deaf to close

From: News 8 Austin, TX - 05 Dec 2002

By: News 8 Austin Staff

Steven Duncan owes most of his independence at home and on the job to the Vaughn House and the people in it.

The Vaughn House has been helping disabled people for the last 33 years. And now it's being forced to shut down. The house, at 107 Leland, near Fulmore Junior High School, is home to people with hearing and mental disabilities.

"The staff is very supportive and gives what you need like a job like the workshop that gives training and learn how to live independently,” said Duncan, who has lived in the house for four years. "I feel very, very sad and I don't want to leave but I understand that it has to close and we have to leave."

Money to operate Vaughn House came from a janitorial service run by those who live and work in the house. The house prided itself on not needing donations but teaching life and work skills to sustain itself.

"We don't want to depend on donations for survival because it's so inconsistent, you never know,” Walker said.

But now the work has dried up.

"We lost a major contract … which caused a problem as far as money and funding and making payroll. When that contract went away we found that we were in trouble," said Gerri Walker, executive director of the Vaughn House.

Travis County Mental Health and Mental Retardation services is helping the residents of the house to find a new place to live.

The doors close on Dec. 31, but in the meantime, Walker is looking for more janitorial contracts to open a new Vaughn house.

"We're unique because all of our staff is fluent in American Sign Language. Most of our staff are deaf themselves and work very, very well in preventing the isolation that comes with deafness," Walker said.

The house was founded 33 years ago with the help of Faith United and Grace United Methodist Churches.

If you want to help the Vaughn House call (412) 444-6081.

Copyright ©2002TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin