Salem Christian Homes was founded in 1960 as Salem Christian School for the Handicapped. It was the result of the vision of five families to provide for the needs of their disabled son or daughter. They envisioned providing help for many families, regardless of their ethnicity, religion or race, in caring for their special needs children.
With virtually no support provided to assist children with developmental disabilities at the current time, Salem blazed a trail in Southern California. On July 29, 1960, in Bellflower, California, 29 men and women met together to form a society which would assume the support of a Christian school program for children and adults who were developmentally disabled. In September of that year, 10 children were enrolled and two teachers were employed to begin this challenging work in Bellflower. On January 11, 1961, our constitution was adopted and a non-profit corporation was formed. Salem’s day school program grew to provide K-8 instruction & residential services for 40 children of parents who saw the potential, rather than the limitations, of their loved ones.
The school flourished for the next 11 years, but was phased out when the public schools began integrating children with special needs and the philosophy of service for the developmentally disabled began to change. However, Salem’s reputation for providing quality residential care & life skills training had grown. When the rented facilities became crowded, land was purchased at our former site in Ontario, California, and plans were made to build a residential home and school. On April 1, 1968, the first phase of construction was completed and included an administration building, a classroom building, and a dormitory. The day school program, at that time, provided training in language development, motor, quantitative, prevocational and music skills.
By the end of 1968, the school & its residents moved to Ontario, California, to a brand new campus. By 1980, the total number of residents served had grown to 86. As the clients grew into adulthood, the programs were modified to meet the needs of the young adults. With the change in focus, the name was changed to Salem Christian Homes.
Armed with the belief that people with disabilities could succeed in community homes with sufficient staff support, Salem once again was a leader in the field in 1980, when it opened a 12 person home in Ontario. By 2004, all clients had moved from the campus into 19 community homes. Currently, all residents are cared for in these small homes designed for 4-6 adults each. The larger living centers on Salem’s main campus are no longer used for residential care. One hundred and nine (109) residents thrive in these family-like settings. Each person learns to participate in household chores, from cooking dinner to feeding the dog. This teamwork fosters a sense of belonging among the residents, creating a unique community in each home.
In 2001, Salem developed Supported Living Services for individuals who choose to live in their own housing with Salem’s assistance. Seven individuals now enjoy the freedoms of life on their own with a minimum of outside assistance from Salem staff.
Approximately 85% of the residents have called Salem home since they were children. In the 1960’s, the life expectancy for those with developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy & epilepsy was only about 20 years. Today, adults are living well into their 60s & 70s. Because of this, a continuum of care is needed to support individuals as they master new skills or need greater assistance as they mature. Unlike other facilities in the Inland Empire, Salem has a well balanced program, offering living environments designed to support every level under the Community Care umbrella and the medical needs served in the ICF model of support.