Michigan Case Study 4: Our Lady of Providence Center, Northville, Michigan

16115 Beck Road
Northville, MI 48167
(313) 453-1300

Established in 1957, Our Lady of Providence Center is a residential community for persons with developmental disabilities. Founded by Father Aloysius Guanella and run by the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence, the Center is located in the township of Northville, Michigan. The Center, a non-profit facility, pursues the goal of enabling developmentally disabled children and young adults "reach their highest potential emotionally, physically and spiritually." The Daughters of St. Mary of Providence believe that "every person—no matter what her stated mental capacity—has the right to be a self-respecting individual. By this, we mean she has the right to be loved, to achieve success in some undertaking, to be creative, to be useful, to be productive, and to be respected."

The Center admits borderline, mild, moderate, and severe cases of developmentally disabled girls over ten years and women under forty; it also admits those with profound disablement who nevertheless can benefit from the Center’s program. Boys are admitted to the day program, but residency is restricted to girls and women.

The Center stresses its religious orientation: "We are a Christ-centered facility. Parents want this for their special children as well as their other children." The religious element in the program helps the administration and staff in obtaining "the maximum achievement from every resident." Ideally, each resident should return to a home environment or matriculate, if possible, to independence. The Center wants each resident to attain a degree of self-sufficiency in terms of work-skills and attitudes that enable a person to hold a job responsibly and develop economic independence. The development of competency in self-help and self-care skills aids in this effort as does the provision of spiritual values that "develop the concept of self . . . through enjoyment and practice of religious experiences."

Center residents under the age of 26 are integrated into the Northville School District special-education program. Residents and persons from the community older than 26 participate in the Our Lady of Providence workshop, which has established agreements with local businesses (especially auto suppliers) to provide piece work assembly at piece rate. The Center works with local businesses (Seaway, Discovery Learning Center, Hardees, McDonalds, and Burger King) to place its clients in off-site work situations. The Center also maintains two "established enclaves," one at Mitsubishi Electronics and one at Seway Tool and Die, where OLP staff supervise ten and two workers respectively.

The actual per diem cost per client at the Center is $105.

In answer to the question of what makes Our Lady of Providence unique, the Center responds that "Our Lady of Providence offers an all encompassing program that seeks to meet the individual needs of each person. Programs are designed to promote the highest level of independence possible. Due to the size of the program we are able to provide different and distinct living arrangements based on the amount of support and supervision required. The Center Workshop offers a work environment tailored to meet the individual’s needs . . . . In one statement, Our Lady of Providence offers a continuum of services, encompassing the entire human person." This is accomplished in a homelike atmosphere where the residents can feel secure and where they can develop crucial ties with staff and administration.

Animating and nourishing all aspects of Our Lady of Providence Center is the spirit of the founder of the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence, and of the Center, the Blessed Father Aloysius Guanella. In the words of the administration and staff of the Center, Father Guanella "was a man ahead of his time. He lived a life dedicated to the care of persons with special needs." Father Guanella’s overriding admonition—the motto of the Center—echoes the scriptural injunction, "Whatever you do to the least of my people you do it to me."

Our Lady of Providence receives funds from Supplementary Security Income, Social Security benefits, and various state agencies. Additional contributions come from Knights of Columbus, private grants, and individual donations. One-third of the residents receive funding of $88.86 per day, applied from private sources. Two-thirds of the residents receive SSI/SSB funds of approximately $600 per month.