Q & A With Mark Holmes, Director of Facilities
What is your role at Greystone Programs? I'm the Director of Facilities Management, which means our department caretakes all of Greystone's properties, including the homes, the land and the vehicles. We also take part in projects for people with disabilities in the community who still live at home or independently. We work with our partners at NYS to determine and perform these projects.
What are some of the projects you are working on, and how do they impact Greystone? Most of the projects we perform here at Greystone fall into two different categories. The first is asset protection, meaning work that needs to be done on any home or vehicle to ensure the safety of and prolong the asset's life. Just like someone with their own home, you may need to replace the roof or redo the back deck because of age, wear and tear, etc.
The second category is why we are all in this field, isn't it? That category of projects is to respond to, enrich the lives and assist in the independence of the people we serve. We will build a ramp for someone with a status change who now needs a wheelchair. Or convert a common space on the first floor of a home to a bedroom because an individual can no longer ascend stairs due to age, medical status or other reasons. If there is a challenging behavior affecting the home, we brainstorm ideas for how to modify the house to better suit the person. We have a phrase here at Greystone that's a mindset -- this is someone's "forever home." And as long as it's doable, we strive to ensure that remains the case.
Greystone recently opened its 17th home during a pandemic; what was this process like? Why is opening this house so important and meaningful? What does this home offer that some of the others do not? This new home is now the 6th home I've opened over my career and was unlike any other program opening I've ever been a part of. Aside from the obvious challenges we all experienced with the pandemic, there were a few more barriers to overcome. A few, and only a few, were no "on-site" meetings. We met remotely every two weeks. A few of us were on the property and using facetime or video chat to perform house tours, make decisions and show progress to our administration and partners at NY State.
Materials and time were also significant issues. Not just the increased prices on everything from a gallon of paint, but also the lead times to get anything we purchased into the home. However, having the full support of our executive team and our subcommittee who worked with me, our architect and the contractor, we made our deadline. And, of course, the largest contributing factor was a "non-essential" construction shutdown in NYS for several months. This home represents an opportunity for six young adults who lived in "on campus" living for most of their lives to do what most young adults do. Find a home, explore the community, take control of their surroundings, their room -- their OWN room and develop skills needed throughout life, like cooking, managing money, developing relationships, working, etc. We had to do this as well when graduating, we had to find a place to live, stop relying on parents for meals (most of the time), develop a routine and become who we were 'practicing' to be as children. With assistance from Greystone staff in all departments, this is the opportunity that these young adults now have.
Every home Greystone operates offers many things that other homes do not. Every one of our homes has its own unique culture, its dynamic, and its setup. From a Facilities standpoint, this is one of the 'smartest' homes we have. We have incorporated technology that can tell us the temperature in any given space -- very important when going into the winter -- and allows us to remotely assist in that temperature control. We can also detect a leak in the bathrooms or kitchen -- and if there is, we can immediately turn off the house water to avoid a flood! We can unlock doors for people who have been locked out and we can do this all remotely. I'd suggest a look around the home - most of the assistance we put into place is invisible to the naked eye only because we want people to feel at home in their "forever home."