The ALUT Fellowship House in Tel Aviv is located in one of the most beautiful areas of the city. It overlooks the confluence of the two rivers that crisscross the metropolitan area (the Yarkon River and the Ayalon River), and is adjacent to a green and well-maintained park.
"The young adults who live here have a well-designed house in an excellent location. They can ride their bicycles through the park; they stroll and shop in the adjacent neighborhood. We've really benefited from this location," said Moran Arbel, director of the Fellowship House.
The Fellowship House is a home-for-life for 24 young adults with autism, ranging in age from 18 to 28, who function at varying levels. Some of them break all of the stereotypes associated with autism – they interact with their environment and they're independent in many areas of life. Others stay within their own personal bubble.
Until the recent opening of the Fellowship House, all of the residents lived with their parents and siblings, which placed great stress on the entire family. "A home in which an autistic child lives revolves entirely around that child,” Arbel said. “But at the Fellowship House, they're one of 24, which really works. Even among the lower-functioning residents, we see an improved ability to deal with other people around them. They don’t feel like the world revolves around them individually here and that's not a bad thing for them.”
At the Fellowship House, the residents are split between three apartments – which they have chosen to name “river,” “lake,” and “sea” – with eight young adults living in each apartment. They each have their own room, but they eat together and share a common area in which they can watch television and interact.
Fellowship staff recently visited the Fellowship House and had the opportunity to meet three outstanding young adults who are living there. Shai, 23, works in a factory that provides jobs specifically to autistic youth, and he loves watching sports. Danny, 20, has trouble speaking, but he enjoys going to school and learning about current events.
And Ofer, 24, travels each morning to Bar Ilan University to study with other autistic children, and he also has a job bussing tables in the coffee shop. He is proud that he earns $5 per hour, he knows how to ride a bicycle, and he has a great sense of humor. He also serves as a volunteer with the Israel Defense Forces one day each week. It’s possible to imagine Ofer one day having a completely normal life.
All of their lives have been dramatically improved since coming to the Fellowship House. The Fellowship House is spacious and well equipped, the windows are large, and the hallways are wide – a lot of thought for the welfare of the residents and the ability of the staff to function safely and comfortably went into every aspect of the planning. Most important, these residents are surrounded by a loving and caring staff, and receive the support they need. This Fellowship House, which these young adults came to only months ago, is their home for life, and they feel so blessed.