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The story of Shangri-La began in 1963, when fifteen families joined efforts to establish a place that would nurture and educate their children with special needs. Yearning for better care for their children with developmental disabilities than institutions of the time could offer, the families pooled their private resources and purchased a 30-acre rural property just east of Salem, Oregon. The existing farmhouse was converted into several classrooms, and a larger school building was completed in 1965. For the first 12 years of operation, Shangri-La was funded privately, and staffed by volunteers and a few direct-care workers.
For the next 15 years, Shangri-La continued to deliver what was then considered state-of-the-art services. Shangri-La's founders and families received extensive public, private and local support as they set out to assure excellence in what was to be a life-long home and education program. Children with developmental disabilities were provided safety, comfort, supports and services along with their families. Enrollment was sought by families across the nation. Shangri-La leaders and many in the newly forming national "disability community" believed that this new program piloting in Oregon was the model and hope for the future of developmentally disabled children and adults.
Responding to the needs of their changing population, in 1988 Shangri-La's leadership began the transformation to a supported, community-integrated lifestyle. Shangri-La purchased homes in community neighborhoods, and with a few modifications, the children who had grown up with Shangri-La and were now adults, lived in 4-5 bedroom homes in their community.
In the early 2000s, Shangri-La began providing housing and employment services for people with disabilities in Newport and Florence, Oregon. Shangri-La now provides services to people with developmental disabilities at over 55 neighborhood homes.
Employment for People with Disabilities
In 1989, Shangri-La opened its first business, what is now Cherry City Woodshop, to provide employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Since then, Shangri-La has provided Supported Community Employment and Alternatives to Employment opportunities, and has started or acquired 9 business, all providing opportunities for people with disabilities or economic challenges.
Curriculum for Offenders with Special Learning Needs
In 1996, Shangri-La developed and implemented a correctional curriculum program for offenders with special learning needs. The curriculum is currently being offered at the Oregon State Correctional Institution and at Coffee Creek Correctional Institution. The one-of-a-kind curriculum has been sold internationally.
Skills Training for Job Seekers
Through a SRF grant, the Employment Resources Northwest Program was started in 1991 to deliver job training skills to Vocational Rehabilitation Division clients at the Salem Rehabilitation Facility. By 1996, the Program evolved and was serving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) clients who were seeking job skills training as a means of re-entering the workforce. The ERN Program currently provides services in Marion, Polk and Yamhill counties.
Addition of Mental Health Services
Shangri-La's history of providing services for people with mental illness started in 1997 with the Sherman Center which promoted the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness in person with developmental disabilities. The Sherman Center closed in 1998, but Shangri-La continued to offer mental health supports to people with developmental disabilities through a psychiatric clinic. During 2000-2009, Shangri-La opened 8 Residential Treatment Homes (RTH) for people with mental illness in Jefferson, Newport, Albany, Eugene, Corvallis and Salem.
Permanent Housing for Homeless Individuals and Families
In March of 2006, Shangri-La began providing permanent supportive housing for homeless individuals and families with disabilities through partnership with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The program was named the Shangri-La Housing Assistance Program (SHAP). In December 2010, Shangri-La received a $66,000 grant from HUD to, for a 2-year period, provide permanent supportive housing to four additional individuals with disabilities, two of which must fit the HUD definition of chronically homeless. This program was named SHAP-1.
New Options, establish in 1999 to provide transitional housing for homeless teen moms, until 2005 when it changed to offer transitional housing for homeless individuals with drug and alcohol issues. The program provides housing for up to 16 individuals at any time for up to 2 years.