For disabled Lynn man, a place to call home

LYNN – After driving his wheelchair 3,335 miles cross-country, Matt Eddy returned home in November, questioning if the homecoming would be literal or just figurative.Faced with foreclosure at the onset of his four-month voyage, Eddy, a 32-year-old with a severe form of muscular dystrophy, was forced to try to find either a new handicap-accessible apartment or financing to purchase the current home he had been renting at 155 Lawton Ave.?When we left here, he thought he had no place to come back to,” said Eddy?s caretaker, Ron Steenbruggen, a respiratory rehabilitation therapist at the Shaughnessy-Kaplan Rehabilitation Center in Salem.Steenbruggen had contacted the Lynn Housing Authority and Neighborhood Development (LHAND) in February to see if the agency, through which Eddy had a Section 8 housing voucher, could be of any assistance. The message got to Norm Cole, LHAND director of planning and development, who got the ball rolling.Thanks to the efforts of the LHAND and the city of Lynn, Eddy is back adjusting comfortably to his familiar, yet newly renovated, quarters. The house is being completed by Affordable Housing Associates of Lynn, which is funding renovations to convert the upstairs unit into another handicap-accessible apartment and will hopefully be able to assist Matt?s Place or a related entity in purchasing the house.?We were just doing our due diligence, looking at every foreclosed property in the area when Ron contacted us after being referred by the city?s Department of Economic and Community Development” said Cole. “After researching the issues and speaking with Matt, we felt trying to keep him in the house, although a challenge, was well worth the effort.?This is a win-win for all involved,” LHAND Executive Director Charlie Gaeta said. “We are happy to be able to help someone like Matt. We can all be inspired by his courage and the dedication of those who care for him. We hope Matt has many more happy years in his home.”Nine years ago, Steenbruggen had the same sentiment, when he took matters into his own hands, helping to raise $30,000 to retrofit and renovate the first-floor Lawton Avenue apartment to meet Eddy?s disability needs. Steenbruggen, who is married and has three grown children, has evolved from Eddy?s respiratory therapist at Spaulding to his primary caregiver, financial provider, life coach and friend.?He just has a spark about him,” said Steenbruggen. “He wants to live. I couldn?t bear the thought of him living the rest of his life in an institution.”Eddy was four years old when he was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a severe form of the genetic disorder that involves rapidly worsening muscle weakness. By age 10, he stopped walking. By age 20, he was hooked up to a tracheotomy tube and ventilator, which he will forever be dependent upon.Prior to living independently in his own apartment, Eddy was hospitalized several times for pneumonia, bedsores, dehydration and malnutrition. Since his move, he has had no medical issues or infections requiring a visit to the hospital.?It just goes to show you that people are happier and stay healthier in their own homes,” said Steenbruggen.And that?s the philosophy behind Matt?s Place, a nonprofit organization that aims to improve the lives of individuals like Eddy living with disabilities. The mission of the organization, initiated by Steenbruggen in 2006, is to build accessible housing, broaden community awareness and education, and provide personal care staff assistance and help with the transition from health-care facility to home.In addition to LHAND and the city of Lynn, Matt?s Place has received support from Homes That Change Lives, a non-profit headquartered in Lynn that helps seniors, people with disabilities and others with special needs become self-sufficient. For Eddy, self-sufficiency has been the key to his success and happiness.?I try to do as much as possible on my own,” he said.He certainly proved that last summer during his quest t

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