A young man with autism who was told he would never be able to live alone has moved into a specially designed new independent home in Lewisham.  

Zachary Whyte was one of four residents to move into a new housing scheme in Stanstead Road, Forest Hill, designed for young adults with autism.  

Working with the Campaign in Lewisham for Autism Spectrum Housing (CLASH) and Birnbeck Housing Association, Lewisham Council donated the land and provided £133,000 of section 106 funding to support the scheme.  

On Wednesday (June 2) Zachary, who had previously been living with his mum and sister in Brockley, showed the Lewisham mayor and cabinet lead for housing around his new home. 

News Shopper:

He described living independently as “a real confidence booster”.  

“I always thought I could do it, and once you’re given the confidence to do one thing, it gives you the confidence to go on to the next thing,” he said. 

Designed by architects Levitt Bernstein, the three-storey building sits on a street corner over a previous patch of grass and features four one-bedroom apartments, a communal lounge and sheltered garden.  

News Shopper:

As minimising stressful situations and anxiety is particularly important for the residents, the design prioritised reducing the impact of noise through triple glazing, maximising light, and creating calm and private environments.  

Zachary said: “Moving in here has been a once in a life-time opportunity. 

“I’ve always liked the idea of living alone and being independent, so this is a great opportunity of getting full control - for example being able to decide when and what I can eat.  

“I get to do the shopping, to cook, to decide how everything looks.  

“It was a really exciting opportunity because I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it - when I was diagnosed at a young age, the doctors said that I’d never able to live on my own, that I wouldn’t get far and would always need care.  

“So part of this was proving them wrong as well.” 

He added that his new home looks “amazing”.    

The scheme forms part of the council’s Building for Lewisham programme.  

Mayor Egan said: “It is fantastic to see the transformative difference [the programme] makes for people like Zachary.  

“This project is a great example of collaborative working between the council, local community groups and our housing association partners.  

“I want to thank everybody involved for their hard work in delivering this scheme, which is beautifully designed and provides an incredible opportunity for some of our young adults with autism.”  

Chair of the Campaign in Lewisham for Autism Spectrum Housing (CLASH), Rita Craft, said: “After a year of such difficulty and bad news, it is simply marvellous to celebrate the very good news of the opening of Stanstead Road flats for autistic young adults.  

“Our group was formed in 2008 to find housing for our autistic sons and daughters, and today we are able to see the results of our efforts.   

“The housing project has been a model example of a collaborative effort, embraced by Lewisham Council, together with Birnbeck Housing Association, the various autism support organisations, and the parents and relatives of our young people.”