'IN: San Francisco' fosters independence for community with intellectual developmental disabilities

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Friday, July 28, 2023
IN: San Francisco fosters growth and independence
The growing success stories from IN:SF motivate Executive Director Joe Femino to continue supporting those he believes are often underestimated.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The simple pleasures of navigating public transit, driving through the neighborhood, or cooking for oneself may seem second nature to many, but for those with disabilities, this isn't always the case. Local service agency IN: San Francisco (IN:SF) fills the void and works to reinvent this common narrative.

Founded in 2017, IN:SF has been helping people with intellectual developmental disabilities find growth and independence for the last six years.

"IN stands for Individual Growth and Independence," IN:SF Co-founder and Executive Director Joe Femino said.

Its services focus on integration, continuing education, physical movement, vocational, and social skills. IN:SF also offers classes on bias and tolerance, bullying, etiquette, and living independently, among others.

They use the neighborhoods of San Francisco as their classroom and engage in real-world activities with staff and participants at each other's side.

"I think they want the same things that everybody else does. They want a place to live, a job, to be self-sufficient, to build relationships," Femino said.

Femino and his team take participants around the city daily.

"Community integration is critical and social skills are critical to everything they do," he stated.

One priority of IN:SF is instilling independence in their participants. Oftentimes, this involves tackling public transportation.

"It's important for many of them to learn how to use the bus because it is a way to get around and have more independence," Manager of Participants Services Michelle Dobrow said. "We have a lot of participants who did not necessarily know how to navigate the bus system...for some people their goal is to make a plan for the day and find the bus routes."

IN:SF encourages participants to volunteer around San Francisco to help build community camaraderie. One participant, Percy Coleman, found a $100 bill while volunteering.

"I do this like once a week, every Tuesday we go around these parks, pick up trash for a...certain amount of time then we go back," Coleman said.

"And sometimes you get rewarded like today," said ABC7 reporter Lyanne Melendez.

Besides getting around and helping out in the city, IN:SF also facilitates major life events for its participants, like living on their own for the first time.

"The sense of me having my own apartment is a way to say that hey, 'I'm making it, I got it!' I also have wonderful people around me that are helping me," participant Ranesha Toney expressed.

For the entire staff, this growth is heartwarming.

"She's worked really hard. She now lives on her own, works on her own," Femino said.

The next step for Toney is learning to drive.

"We've been working on the written test," Femino said. "We're going to start driving next week actually."

IN:SF has recently developed a mobile app to give participants more control over their services and modes of communication. They have also expanded their services by opening a new location in Pittsburg in Contra Consta County.

For more information, visit IN:SF's website.

To see more ABC7 Allies in Action, visit here.