Community Access Unlimited (CAU) will host its annual Independent City life experience training event for youth Saturday, July 21, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at its Elizabeth headquarters at 80 West Grand Street. The event is open to youth aged 13 and older at no cost.
Independent City is a replicated community set up in CAU's auditorium consisting of simulated banks, apartment buildings, grocery stores, utilities and institutions and amenities that allow everyday citizens to make – or break – their futures. It offers youth the opportunity to experience independent living.
They are given a portfolio that tells them what job they have, how much money they make and whether they have a family. Then they are given a check and are allowed to make their own life decisions as they navigate the mock community landscape.
"They experience a day in the life of an adult," said Howard F. Wingard, supported housing coordinator at CAU. "They learn to write checks, read pay stubs, budget their money, rent an apartment, buy groceries and furniture, use transportation and make other decisions. They discover they shouldn't lease a car or buy furniture until they've secured a place to live, in case they run out of money. They learn if they could live on their own if they had to."
Representatives from several businesses and organizations also will be on hand, including apartments, food stores, utilities and assistance agencies as well as bankers, lawyers, members of the armed services and college ambassadors explaining financial aid.
Independent City is ideal for middle and high school classes, community and church youth groups and youth living within the child services system.
Independent City is hosted by CAU's Transitional Opportunities Program for youth. CAU is a statewide nonprofit providing support programs and services to individuals with disabilities as well as youth served under the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to enable them to live independently in the community, providing supports in areas including housing, vocational skills and life-skills training, education, advocacy and recreation.
About Community Access Unlimited
Community Access Unlimited (CAU), celebrating its 39th year in 2019, supports people with special needs in achieving real lives in the community. CAU provides support and gives voice to adults and youth who traditionally have little support and no voice in society. CAU helps people with housing, life skills, employment, money management, socialization and civic activities. CAU also supports opportunities for advocacy through training in assertiveness, decision-making and civil right. CAU currently serves more than 5,000 individuals and families, with the number served growing each year. For more information about CAU and its services, contact us by phone at 908.354.3040, online at www.caunj.org or by mail at 80 West Grand Street, Elizabeth, NJ 07202.