As Michael Poston was nearing the end of his high school career, his parents thought: What’s next?

All of his siblings had left home to live on their own, and now it was Michael’s turn. The only difference is Michael has Down Syndrome.

Michael’s father John Poston said they wanted to find a way for Michael to experience living on his own like everyone else his age. There wasn’t anywhere that allowed Michael to maintain his independence and have the care he needs.

That’s when John founded Daymark Living.

"I just started thinking, his brother and sister are out at college making lifelong friends and learning skills to get a job. Why isn't he,” John said. “I didn't want him living at home for the rest of his life. Just like you don't want to be living at home for the rest of your life."

 WHAT IS DAYMARK LIVING

Daymark Living is a housing complex for adults with intellectual and developmental delays including Down Syndrome and Autism.

The facility began housing people in December but was officially introduced to Waxahachie with a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday afternoon.

Down Syndrome is the presence of an extra copy of the 21-chromosome and is a developmental disability. The syndrome can result in low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes and learning disabilities. It occurs once in every 700 babies born in the U.S. with about 6,000 babies born with Down Syndrome a year, according to the National Down Syndrome Society.

Autism is a developmental disability, like Down Syndrome, which can cause social, communication and behavioral challenges, according to the Center for Disease Control. Autism occurs in about 1 in 59 children.

The living facility offers housing to other adults with intellectual and developmental delays as well.

Currently, about 25 residents call Daymark home with about 200 rooms available on site.

The facility doesn’t just focus on housing. It also offers a place for independence. Each condo comes with a kitchen, living room and laundry room. It also has a learning center on site for constant classes including home economics and technology classes. For safety, an medical official is on site 24/7.

For those who are interested in Daymark Living, they can apply for residency with a five-step process.

To start that process, one must call Daymark at 972-525-2727 or fill out an online application with basic information. Next is the personal consultation. A member of the admissions team will meet with the possible resident and discuss life at Daymark. If the resident is eligible then an application will be given to the family with a $500 application fee, according to Daymark’s website.

A third party will then review the family’s finances for a $300 fee to that third party.

After the third party reviews the finances, Daymark will review both documents and meet with the potential resident, their family and the admissions team.

Once all is said and done, the Daymark will contact the family with information on the residents new home. The monthly rent is $3,700 which includes housing, food and amenities like the fitness center.

WHERE IT BEGAN

John said Michael was active in the special education program at Highland Park High School just north of Dallas, but he noticed he wasn’t as engaged before.

"He was getting bored and didn't want to be in there," he said.

He then started thinking about life after high school and decided to open the resort-style residential community for people like Michael.

Life after high school is not great for anybody who has an intellectual disability because they're at home and they're isolated, John said.

"There's no place for him to live, and so we have to create it," John said.

John noted the idea was simple: Give Michael an opportunity to grow into his own like his brother and sister.

"There's no magic to it,” John said. “It's just providing him a nice place to live and then supported by a professional and passionate staff that helps him live a happy healthy life."

It also gives Michael a chance to find his independence. Michael has always been independent, but Daymark Living gives him a chance to expand that and become a leader, John said.

"It's extremely important that he has as much independence as possible," John noted.

It’s imperative for people to find their independence, John added. Daymark offers Michael a chance to dictate what his day will look like without being told what to do.

"If he's at home it's mom or dad is dictating the day,” John said. “Now here he does what he wants to do."

As John spoke, residents interrupted and shook his hand. They wanted to introduce him to their families who came to visit for the facilities ribbon cutting on Friday.

"How can you not be happy here," John grinned.

MICHAEL’S LIFE AT DAYMARK

Michael, 23, has lived at Daymark since December with his roommate Chris Wheeler, 22.

They live behind the basketball court which is near the center of campus. Their two-bedroom condo is fitted with a wristband activated lock like most other doors on campus and a patio out front.

“In my preference, I love it a lot cause my dad did it for me,” Michael said. “It really changes our life.”

This place offers Michael a chance to acclimate into the Waxahachie community, get a job and be an active member of the area, he said.

Right now, Michael works two jobs at Fresh Market coffee shop and the YMCA. Both of which he enjoys doing.

On a typical day, the roommates wake up early, get ready and head to the community dining hall for breakfast. Then they go their separate ways for work or study.

“It’s my time to get away from home and be more independent,” Michael said.

In the condo, Michael and Wheeler have an in-unit washer and dryer and each has their own bathrooms. Michael said he is the clean roommate who likes to keep things tidy.

Despite his need to clean, there have been no issues for the two who were Daymark’s first residents.

“My dad’s been really passionate about building this place,” Michael added. “It’s built for a purpose.”

Wheeler said he is grateful John built a place like Daymark to give him a chance to live away from his parents.

“Daymark is my home,” Wheeler said.

He said this is the place where he can be happy. Michael agrees with Wheeler's sentiment and doesn’t know what he would do without Daymark Living.

“If I didn’t have this place I don’t know if I’d feel complete,” Michael said. “It’s been life changing for me.”

————

Samantha Douty, @SamanthaDouty

469-517-1451