Building Independence




The Building Independence Project brings people together to build and maintain safe, affordable housing for low-income adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD) through a partnership with the residents, their families, funders, and community volunteers.

Project History and Need

From about the age of two, human nature pushes us to continually search for greater independence. Individuals with I/DD are no different. While they may not be able to reach the point of living completely on their own, they want to be as independent as possible. For adults with I/DD to live at their highest level of independence within their communities, it is crucial to have choices and flexibility in the continuum of services. To meet the need for supervised, independent, and affordable housing for these adults in Wake County, Green Level Apartments were created in January 2010 through a partnership among The Serving Cup (a nonprofit with its roots in Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Raleigh), Lutheran Services Carolinas (LSC), and the Arc of North Carolina (an advocacy organization). Located in Cary, Green Level serves 12 residents in a supportive, independent living environment.

Encouraged by the success of Green Level and recognizing the demand for independent housing for adults with I/DD, Serving Cup began working with Lutheran Services Carolinas and Habitat Wake to develop a strategy to replicate Green Level. The partnership has created a building and funding plan that could serve as a state and national model, involve potential residents and their families in a larger way, involve the broader community, and be sustainable.

In Wake County alone, there are 16,500 people with I /DD. The demand in the county greatly outpaces available services, such as housing resources. The 2010 Wake County Assessment Report estimates there are 5430 adults with developmental disabilities in the County. According to the NC Division of Mental Health, Disabilities and Substance Abuse, 50 percent of adults with developmental disabilities have the ability to live independently, which means they are capable of caring for themselves and working at some level. Many of these adults need some level of on-site support to help them deal with day-to-day living. Lutheran Services Carolinas will provide this valuable support to the residents of the Building Independence project.

Project Description

The Building Independence Project serves nine adults with I/DD in three adjacent, Wake County homes. Each resident has his or her own bedroom and bathroom, and each home has a kitchen, dining room and den. One of the homes has a larger common space to accommodate resident activities. The homes are accessible to public transportation and shopping. Because the homes were built using a modified Habitat design, all structures are energy efficient (Advanced Energy certified) and affordable to maintain.

The homes were built by Habitat Wake and owned by Lutheran Services Carolinas. The residents pay an affordable monthly fee for housing and services. Residents work together to maintain their home and are empowered by the skills they demonstrate in maintaining the home. The staff of Lutheran Services Carolinas meet with residents regularly to offer support, encouragement and assistance as the residents refine their independent living skills. Residents and their families provide feedback and advice to the partners that will inform future projects in Wake County and potentially across North Carolina and the nation.

Plan of Action

In 2013, Habitat Wake, Serving Cup and Lutheran Services Carolinas began seeking an appropriate property, preparing site and house plans, and having initial conversations with sponsors. To honor the unique nature of this project, in September of 2013, Habitat, Serving Cup and Lutheran Services Carolinas staff visited Green Level and talked with residents about their home’s features and their housing needs. In 2014, the project worked with foundations, congregations, corporations, and individuals to raise the funds to build the three homes. Residents, their families, sponsors and volunteers were involved in building the three homes in Wake County. In addition to building homes to address the community need for housing for adults with I/DD, the Building Independence Project seeks to engage the broader community and develop new advocates for adults with I/DD.


Nine residents moved into Building Independence in September 2016.  To understand the impact Building Independence had on four of the nine families, please make arrangements to view the documentary Building Independence  created by local documentary filmmaker, Angela Alford.  For information on the film and future screenings, visit the Film page.

About the Partners

The three partners share missions of serving our neighbors in need, roots in the faith community, and a proven track record of success.

Lutheran Services Carolinas

Lutheran Services Carolinas (LSC) is an affiliation of two vital health and human service organizations, Lutheran Family Services in the Carolinas and Lutheran Services for the Aging. For over 35 years, LSC has served children, adults and families in both North and South Carolina through residential services for individuals with special needs, veteran’s services, foster care and adoption, transitional housing, and refugee resettlement. Since 1960, LSC has served the older adults of North Carolina through skilled nursing facilities, retirement communities, adult day services, and geriatric care management services.

Mission: Empowered by Christ, we walk together with all we serve.

Habitat Wake

Habitat for Humanity of Wake County was founded in 1985. Since then, Habitat Wake has partnered with more than 450 families to build safe, decent, affordable homes in our community. Homeowners work alongside sponsors and community volunteers to build their house, and they purchase the completed home with an affordable (zero percent interest), 20-year mortgage. Applicants to the program go through a rigorous approval and preparation process, which includes credit checks, home visits, financial literacy classes, and interviews to ensure their readiness to buy and maintain a new home. Habitat Wake’s Family Support Department offers homeowner education and support throughout the life of each family’s mortgage.

Mission: Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat Wake builds homes, communities and hope.

Serving Cup

Serving Cup is a Raleigh-based nonprofit with a mission to serve the community of adults with developmental disabilities. Aside from housing, Serving Cup promotes the establishment of Coffeehouses, which are monthly social opportunities for individuals with I/DD to get together and share food and music. There are three Coffeehouses in Wake County serving approximately 450 individuals monthly.

Mission: Empowering adults with special needs to enhance their lives.

 Building Ind. floor plan