Nonprofit raises autism awareness, looking to build housing, retreat center

Published: Sep. 4, 2023 at 4:50 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 4, 2023 at 6:19 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Living Darshan, a nonprofit based in Charleston, is looking to increase autism awareness in the Lowcountry, and they’re also looking to build a place where people with autism can feel safe.

Dr. Melinda Edwards, its co-founder, said she started the organization after her daughter was diagnosed with autism after she turned 1 year old.

She said they want to build a residential community center somewhere in the greater Charleston area to help serve adults with autism. They are looking for land on Johns and Wadmalaw islands to build the center.

They said they want to offer long-term housing for people with autism. Initial plans call for four separate homes to house four separate people, plus room for an additional house manager who would provide support.

Around 1 in 36 children have been diagnosed with autism, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report from 2020.

Edwards said there’s currently no housing available on the market locally that caters solely to people on the autism spectrum. It’s an issue that, she said, will only continue growing.

“I know for all of us parents with children or young adults on the spectrum, one of our biggest fears is ‘Where will our children live?’ ‘Who will support them when we’re gone?’ There’s a tremendous need for it,” Edwards said.

Edwards said the community center and housing will likely cost several million dollars to build. She said they are still a few years away from accomplishing their goal.