Our History

The roots of Friedman Place go back to April 2, 1935, when the nonprofit Association for Jewish Blind was created to combat discrimination suffered by the visually impaired. In 1944, the purpose was changed “To promote the social, educational and vocational opportunities of the blind and for the care of homeless, blind, Jewish men and women residing in Chicago” and “to establish a permanent home or homes…”. A small two-story house was acquired and where up to five people rented rooms, but without any additional services. In 1956, a large building on the west side of Chicago was obtained which became “Kagan Home” and provided housing and support to 36 adults. The agency also began providing a wide range of nursing and recreational services.

The agency continued to grow and develop over the years and in 2005, Friedman Place, a modern Supportive Living Facility on the northwest side of Chicago with 74 studio apartments and 7 one-bedroom apartments was opened. Our mission is to provide housing and supportive services to people who are blind or visually impaired so that their lives can be healthy, dignified, and stimulating. Friedman Place is one of only a handful housing facilities for the blind and visually impaired in the US and strives to be a primary force among professional organizations serving adults with visual disabilities. Between 2005 and 2014 Friedman Place’s residents have received nearly 200,000 days and nights of care.

Our residents reside in private studio or one-bedroom apartments. Our building is constructed to enhance their ability to function independently and capitalize on any remaining sight they might have with special lighting, changes in flooring, handrails, "talking" elevators, and so on. Each apartment contains a large shower stall with a handrail, seating, and no threshold to trip over. There are two emergency call pendants in each room which immediately connect them to our 24-hour nursing staff. All residents also receive housekeeping and case management and other services to assist them in pursuing full and rewarding lives.

Our approach is very different from that of a nursing home, which is where many people with vision loss spend their days. We not only help our residents adjust to vision loss but also empower them to reach their personal potential for independence. We provide activities that are responsive to residents' expressed interests and designed to engage visually impaired individuals, foster their independence, and prevent isolation. All of our services, from occupational therapy to computer classes, foster integrated health--physical, mental and social.

Despite the wide range of services provided to residents, Friedman Place operates at a cost well below that of housing a person in a nursing home, saving the state and Illinois taxpayer’s crucial funds. However, there is a significant gap between this income that comes from the state’s Supportive Living Program and the costs of the supportive services and individualized care that are important to the population we serve. In recent years between 16% and 22% of Friedman Place’s revenue came from sources other than the state’s Supported Living Program.
Friedman Place accepts people from all economic, ethnic, and religious backgrounds and our residents come from wide and diverse backgrounds.

As of 2014:
• Approximately 40% of residents have severe visual impairment and 60% are totally blind.
• Forty percent of residents have severe visual impairment and 60% are totally blind.
• Thirty-six percent of our residents are female and 64% are male
• Seventy-five percent of residents are above age 50, and 31% are over 65
• Eighty-percent of our residents have another major health issue besides vision loss, such as diabetes, heart disease, seizure disorders, depression, or an anxiety disorder, which is often the reason they need to live in a facility such as ours.
• Eighty-six percent of our residents meet government guidelines for low-income or very low income, and 36% have incomes at or below the Federal Poverty Level.
• Ninety-three percent of residents agree with the statement “I feel I make my own lifestyle decisions at Friedman Place
• Eighty-one percent of residents agree with the statement “I feel that living at Friedman Place has improved my overall quality of life
• Eighty-nine percent of residents would recommend Friedman Place to other adults with vision loss.
• Eighty-three percent of residents agree with the statement “I feel a sense of trust with Friedman Place staff
• Seventy-two percent of residents agree that the overall quality of meals is usually good.
• Friedman Place's employees remain with the agency, providing a skilled and stable workforce; 17% of Friedman Place employees have worked for the agency continuously for at least 10 years (and 6% at least 20 years!)
• Friedman Place's employees remain with the agency, providing a skilled and stable workforce; the retention rate (percent of employees who remain working for Friedman Place) was 87% in the last fiscal year and is 96% for the current fiscal year (i.e., from July - December of 2013).
• Friedman Place's employees are ethnically diverse, with 18% Asian, 18% Black, 11% Hispanic, and 53% White.
• Friedman Place's employees span a wide age range, with 29% ages 55 or over, 37% ages 35 - 54, and 34% under age 35.
• Nearly all of the agency’s expenses go directly towards programs and services. Eighty-four and one-half percent (84.6%) of expenses went directly to programs and services, which is much higher than the minimum 65% recommended by the Better Business Bureau’s Standards for Charitable Accountability and 60% by the American Institute for Philanthropy.
• Since, without Friedman Place, most residents would end up in a nursing home, the agency saves the State of Illinois and its taxpayers $14,200 per resident per year. That's over $1,000,000 per year!
Updated: March 4, 2014

Our Location

Friedman Place, on the northwest side of Chicago, is readily accessible to the city’s many cultural, social, and educational opportunities by public transportation or taxi.
We encourage prospective residents and family members and friends of the blind and visually impaired to visit Friedman Place.
Call (773) 989-9800 to schedule a personal visit or for more information.


Donate to Friedman Place
5527 North Maplewood: Chicago, IL 60625 Phone: (773) 989-9800