BJ Baker at the construction site of a Mainstream Living house that will bear his name and serve young adults with severe disabilities.
Photo by DUANE TINKEY
BJ Baker at the construction site of a Mainstream Living house that will bear his name and serve young adults with severe disabilities. Photo by DUANE TINKEY

Mainstream Living Inc. is an Ames-based nonprofit that has joined forces with prominent Greater Des Moines business leaders to provide housing for severely disabled young adults.

Mainstream Living broke ground last month on a house that will provide living quarters for five people age 22 and older who, because of mental, physical or medical problems, cannot care for themselves.

The building is named The Baker House, in honor of BJ Baker, president and CEO of the Baker Group, who donated the land at 3355 E. Douglas Ave. in Des Moines.

Mainstream Living has provided residential and vocational services for people with disabilities since 1975. CEO Reno Berg said a change in federal regulations has forced young adults out of centers that care for children with special needs. He estimated that at least 60 people are on waiting lists for such centers.

Advances in medical science have prolonged their lives and created a panic situation for parents who typically can't provide around-the-clock care while also holding down a job.

Baker has experienced that anxiety. Two of his daughters required such care. Both passed away as teenagers. Baker could afford to hire caregivers, but he pointed out that many people cannot.

"Your fear is that you get killed or you become incapacitated and your special-needs son or daughter needs to be in a situation of safety and quality care with people you trust," he said.

Baker found those people to trust locally at Mainstream Living.

Baker is co-chair of a capital campaign to build two homes: one on the property he donated and one in West Des Moines on property donated by developer William Knapp.

About $1 million - enough money to build and outfit one home - has been raised so far. Another $1 million is needed, he said.

Ball Construction Services LLC is providing the building expertise for the projects.

The goal is to eventually have 10 such homes built in Greater Des Moines.