Because more than 40 million Americans live with a disability, Western Theological Seminary decided to do more to prepare our students to work with these individuals and their families. In 2007 the Ralph and Cheryl Schregardus Friendship House opened, offering students a unique housing option—the opportunity to live alongside young adults with a cognitive disability. This is the first residence of its kind among seminaries across the U.S. The Ralph and Cheryl Schregardus Friendship House accommodates 18 seminary students (including a resident director) and six people with cognitive impairments. Each special-needs adult shares an apartment with three seminary students, engaging in friendships yet functioning independently.
By virtue of living in community with people who have cognitive impairments, Western students become more aware of the challenges faced by persons with a variety of disabilities. Students who live in Friendship House take their experiences into the church— influencing congregations and ministries with the care and sensitivity persons with special needs deserve.