Rockville family develops affordable housing community for adults with disabilities

A Rockville family with a special needs child is using their experience to help others. Their inclusive, community-centered real estate development, Main Street Connect, will provide affordable housing for those who need it the most.

Jillian and Scott Copeland have a unique vision on life -- a vision that wasn't always so clear.

"We look at life through a different lens because of him," said Scott.

You see, the Copeland's son Nicholas suffered from several seizures as a child, hundreds of them, and he had brain surgery because of it.

"He's the one with the needles in his arm and the EEGs and the meds he has to take and things are difficult for him," said Jillian.

Nicholas made it through surgery -- his life, however, would never be the same. Things would be more difficult moving forward, especially at school -- a facet of life the Copelands knew needed to change.

"This is not an optimal experience for him and we have one shot at childhood to make him feel whole," said Jillian.

Armed with only a vision, Jillian felt she had an answer that would make everything clearer.

"My lightbulb moment is when she came home and said we're starting a school," laughed Scott.

Given Scott's background in building affordable housing, he and Jillian worked together and applied for grants and other types of funding to build the Diener School. It was founded in 2007 and became a place for kids just like Nicholas that helps them get through life's difficulties -- and it was a success, but eventually, the school must end.

That left the Copelands asking questions about their son's future.

"Okay, now what? In terms of what's the rest of his life look like," said Scott.

The Copelands asked hundreds of families in similar situations questions they felt needed answers.

Equipped with a new vision, the Copelands decided to look at life through a new lens.

Their new vision, Main Street Connect, includes over 70 units of affordable housing with 25 percent of its units dedicated for adults with disabilities. Through a yearly membership that anyone can join. The facility will offer special programs aimed at integrating the community's most vulnerable members.

"Join our Super Bowl party, or our book clubs, or pizza nights, or all these fun activities or programs that will be available for everyone," said Jillian.

The development will come equipped with technology aimed at helping those with visual and hearing limitations. It's a community Nicholas says he can't wait to join and a building the Copelands feel will offer a new vision everyone will be able see.

"I'm really excited for Main Street because I get to live independently," said Nicholas.

"In the back of my mind I know that he has a place to live his future and it's going to be Main Street and I think he's, he and everybody else there, are just going to have a wonderful life and at the end of the day, that's what I just keep going back to," said Jillian.

The Copelands say Main Street Connect will open in June 2020.

For more information on Main Street Connect, click here.