Portage Manor to close; volunteers, staff, and residents heartbroken by the St. Joseph County decision

NOW: Portage Manor to close; volunteers, staff, and residents heartbroken by the St. Joseph County decision

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind.--- County homes originally built to house the poor, disabled, and mentally ill are rapidly disappearing across the State of Indiana. Once located in every county, today only a few still stand. The Historic Portage Manor in St. Joseph County still serves over a hundred residents after 117 years. 

Tuesday Evening, they received word from the St. Joseph County Council and the Board of Commissioners that they too would soon be closing their doors. The news leaving many volunteers, staff, and residents heartbroken. 

A Portage Manor Volunteer, Jenny Piontek, hopes to serve as a voice for those residents. She was at the facility when they received the news describing the scene as,

"Terrible it really was it was very upsetting." 

She spends her free time talking with her friends at the Portage Manor, and bringing them baked goods. She says there's really no place like it.

“there's no place like portage manor… the staff…with such a caring staff.. and the people are one of a kind….each one is a gem and just a beautiful person….” said Piontek.

The people in the facility are not the only thing she believes makes Portage Manor stand apart, but also the care they are able to provide to what she describes as a misunderstood demographic, many of whom are under 55. 

“ I think there's some misconceptions about what we are—the demographics of the clientele. we are not a nursing home,” she said. 

The County however says the millions of dollars to save the place would not be feasible. Commissioner, Carl Baxmeyer, urged residents not to worry while discussing the next steps for them. 

"The next step is to come up with a plan… for how this is going to occur…and of course the most important thing is the residents…they need to be afforded and will be afforded options…. And its ultimately their decision where they want to relocate to," said Baxmeyer. 

However, with so much still up in the air, Piontek tells us those residents are still very concerned. Many calling the place home for decades, and for some the transition could simply be too much.

"These people are mothers..and fathers.. and sons and daughters….and they deserve to be taken care of and not to have to worry about where they are gonna be"

Piontek says there's not a lot of options for affordable assisted living facilities for those under 55, especially with very few county homes left in the state. Highlighting why the facility was such an important asset to the community, despite the millions of dollars it would cost to keep it operating. 

“so there are no more county homes for them to go to….and yes the building in disrepair.. but its still home… and they're happy there they have a good quality of life”

Piontek is still holding on to hope, along with many of those residents. 

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