FORWARD at the Rock PHASE I – Completed June, 2020

FORWARD at the Rock

FORWARD is building nonprofit affordable and supportive housing for adults on the autism spectrum.

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Organization Overview

FORWARD (Friends Or Relatives With Autism & Related Disabilities) is an independent 501(c) 3 nonprofit founded in 2014 by a group of concerned citizens whose common goal was to help meet the critical housing needs of adults with autism and related disabilities. Because government-owned housing is very scarce and private-sector for-profit housing is cost-prohibitive, both are unattainable for those most in need of affordable supportive housing. Access to housing has been a major and growing concern for the large population of adults with autism, and with demand outstripping supply, the shortage has now reached critical proportions.

As part of our mission, FORWARD is currently building a regional housing community that will be owned and managed by the nonprofit sector, with funding support from government, businesses, foundations, and individuals. This project, FORWARD at the Rock, will provide new housing for eight Cape Cod residents eligible for state financial assistance for both rent and services, and will also demonstrate an approach to affordable housing that meets the needs of this underserved population.

Construction Timeline


Project Overview

Our Vision

Through this project, FORWARD and its partners – the Department of Developmental Services, Cape Abilities and the Town of Dennis – are creating an affordable residential community that will provide a much higher quality of life for individuals on the autism spectrum through supportive services, a stable and permanent living situation, and and a building custom built for the needs of the residents.

Building Community

Located in Dennis, MA in the heart of Cape Cod, the FORWARD at the Rock property is situated on a peaceful wooded site on Hokum Rock Road – just one mile from the Village of Dennis and nearby to many local amenities. The location allows residents easy proximity to outside services and activities, while also providing caregivers, friends and relatives from across the Cape convenient access to their loved ones.

A Specialized Project

FORWARD at the Rock has been designed to respect the organization’s vision of a better future for all Cape Codders, regardless of their abilities and circumstances. The project will be a comfortable and pleasing home environment where residents can age-in-place, and have greater control over how and where they live, along with access to as much support as needed on an individual basis. The latest information on the therapeutic needs of adults with severe autism has been integrated into the design, and the project is fully accessible and able to accommodate the residents as they age and confront health issues.


The architectural design and furnishings are being implemented to not only be aesthetically pleasing – but to also fully meet the needs and requirements of its residents. The residence will be one story for ease in mobility, and the home will be designed to meet the needs of limited movement, vision, hearing, cognitive ability, constrained space, behavioral difficulties, perception issues as well as other special Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) considerations pertaining to lighting, space, and multisensory therapeutic needs.

The Design

The single story shingle style building will consist of eight one-bedroom apartments which will each have it’s own direct entry from the outside, a back patio, washer/dryer and other amenities. Each individual unit will qualify as affordable housing to individuals earning either below 30% or 50% of the Average Median Income (AMI) for Barnstable County, MA. The building will also have a common multi-purpose area for recreation such as ping-pong, movie screenings, and communal dinners as well as training, meetings and other uses. The common space will also include a small office, kitchen, bathroom and storage.

Land/Town of Dennis Investment

In October of 2015 provision for a 99-year lease for 4.9 acres of Town-owned property on Hokum Rock Road was approved at Town Meeting, and soon after Dennis committed $500,000 towards the construction of the project. After 3 and a half years of intensive fundraising, permitting and design work, FORWARD and the Town signed a final land lease agreement, which specified rent of $1.00 per year.

The Town will continue to own the land, but FORWARD, as owner of the FORWARD at the Rock buildings, will retain financial responsibility and oversight of the property, building maintenance, and future development.

DDS Approval

In March of 2016, the concept for FORWARD at the Rock was approved by The Department of Developmental Services (DDS), and in May of 2017, FORWARD received a formal letter of support from DDS offices with approval to refer clients for supported services when the building has been completed.

Early Funding & Partners

In October of 2015, Community Preservation Community (CPC) approved $500,000 in Grant funding to the FORWARD at the Rock Project, which provided the impetus to further develop the project and raise an additional 2 million dollars. With that early support, FORWARD assembled a talented building team – engineer, architect, project manager, and the Housing Assistance Corporation.

FORWARD at the Rock PHASE I is completed, but we need your help to build PHASE II

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