Resident speaks out on decision to uphold Portage Manor closure

Published: Jun. 7, 2023 at 11:32 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - A Portage Manor resident says he is remaining optimistic after learning that St. Joseph County Commissioners are sticking with their plan to close the building.

Mark Huffman has lived at Portage Manor for 33 years and says it is a special place.

Portage Manor is a living facility that houses those with disabilities and mental illness.

While the building could close, Huffman says it is not the building that matters.

“The truth of the matter is this building right here is just a building. Portage Manor is the residents and staff who live in the building and work in the building,” said Huffman.

Huffman says Portage Manor residents are like family and hopes everyone will be kept together.

“I just keep telling them, ‘Have an optimistic feeling about it.’ When I left the commissioners’ meeting...I came up to Commissioner Fleming and I told her, ‘It’s not over yet,’” said Huffman.

On Tuesday, St. Joe County Commissioners announced they are moving forward with the closure of Portage Manor.

While the building was originally set to close in the spring, they gave community members 60 days to come up with a viable plan.

But commissioners say no option seemed feasible.

A consultant hired to look at options said in part, “...a public/private partnership might have been a preferred outcome. This might have been possible had the work and feasibility been carefully done 12-18 months ago...”

“You’ve got to have a proactive attitude to be able to stand up for residents of a place like this,” said Huffman.

Huffman says some residents have already started moving out.

County officials say they will make sure everyone is placed before they lock the doors.

The county council will vote on the closure at their meeting next week.