Lifehouse to relocate in Marin, expand services

SAN RAFAEL -- Lifehouse, a nonprofit organization that assists the developmentally disabled in Marin and Sonoma counties, is relocating from its existing Smith Ranch Road location to a 5,880-square-foot space at 899 Northgate Drive in San Rafael, a move that will accommodate three years of continuous growth.

The move will provide the nonprofit with roughly an additional 1,500 square feet, which in turn will enable the organization to serve a growing caseload of clients, said Nancy Dow Moody, president and CEO of the nonprofit.

"We have in the last three years increased our budget by $2 million," Ms. Dow Moody said. "In the last year we've added 21 new clients, and of course each person needs a certain amount of staff, so we've had to expand our management department to train additional employees."

Lifehouse, founded in 1954 in Marin, now has an annual budget of $7.1 million, up from $4.8 million three years ago, according to Ms. Dow Moody. It has 165 employees across Marin and Sonoma counties, with a total of 180 clients (32 in Sonoma County and the remainder in Marin).

The nonprofit plans on hiring additional staff, but Ms. Dow Moody said a number is difficult to identify, since the needs of clients can vary  and thus require different staffing levels. The increase in staff will be determined as individual clients are added, she said.

"When we get referrals is when we think of hiring," she said. "We really do try to tailor the program for the individual."

Lifehouse also intends on growing services in Sonoma County, where it's existing office is in Rohnert Park; currently, the nonprofit is considering an additional location in the city of Sonoma.

Ms. Dow Moody attributed the expansion and relocation to an increase in people diagnosed with autism. Lifehouse collaborates with 12 additional agencies to spearhead the Marin Autism Collaborative. 

"Last year, 35 percent of our referrals were for people with autism," Ms. Dow Moody said, adding that, on a national level, one in 100 people will be born with autism. The percentage of autism-related referrals is up from about 15 percent a year ago.

"What's happening is the greater number of people with autism are under 20 years old, and so now what you're seeing is those people are coming of age in the community and need more services," Ms. Dow Moody said.

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