Portage Manor resident advocates for saving facility ahead of county decision

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. - Before March 15, 1990, Mark Huffman moved from a church nursery to a golf cart garage and a short stay at Hope Rescue Mission before claiming something he'd been missing: home. That home? Portage Manor.  

The 33-year resident of the county home for the disabled off Portage Road in South Bend said the building felt like a place he could settle into and not have to move again.  

In the years since, Huffman has seen a number of his neighbors and staffers come and go at the residential healthcare facility.

What's always remained, though, is the sense of family felt regardless of zip code.  

"We got some people here that they're the only person of their natural family left," Huffman said. "And this is the only family that they have. And closing it down would take that family away from them." 

That's why he's pushing to save the facility. 

Since the February 7 announcement to close Portage Manor by St. Joseph County officials, Huffman said he felt like he needed to step up for the more than 100 residents who may not know what to say about what's happening.  

"I didn't know if I really knew what to say either," he said. "But I knew that I could do my best in saying what was to be said."  

The county has vowed to find Huffman and all his neighbors a new place to live---but at a town hall meeting to advocate for saving the building, an emotional Huffman expressed his anguish with the board of commissioners' decision, saying that taking away the building would mean taking away a support system for residents who often try and fail to live successfully on their own.  

Ultimately, Huffman wants the community to know how much good Portage Manor has done for himself and other residents--before any final vote is taken.

"If I hadn't been here, I wouldn't have found out that I was diabetic," he said. "I had a stroke back in November last year. Had I not been here, I may not even be here now talking to you."  

Huffman said he plans to be at Tuesday night's St. Joseph County Council meeting, where council members will decide whether or not to close one of the last county homes in the state of Indiana.

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