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Home for disabled residents has spooky makeover

Emma Bailey taking a resident around the haunted house at the Downstown home
Emma Bailey taking a resident around the haunted house at the Downstown home Image credit: sandiegouniontribune.com

If you walk past Emma Bailey’s home today, October 31, be prepared for a fight because, for the fifth consecutive year, the grounds in Vista will be transformed into a haunted house.

It’s not just Bailey who resides behind the spooky decor, she is joined by staff and residents of Downstown Inc., a non-profit association which houses adults with developmental disabilities such as autism, epilepsy and Downs syndrome.

Bailey has shared accommodation with disabled people since she was six with her twin sister, Amanda Smith.

The two siblings now run the home under the watchful eye of their mother and Downtown’s associate director Susan Laubach.

In 2018 Bailey created a walk-through haunt for 22 residents across the five homes’, it was such a success every year has seen the Halloween activity grow in size.

This year it’s taken Bailey a whole month to fill the home with animatronic props, speakers, lights and speakers which have been stored in a locker ready for the big night.

“I’ve known some of these residents most of my life,” Bailey told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “It’s like one big happy family.”

For the first time Emma’s Haunted Hallow is open to the public who can make a voluntary donation to the home as they walk round the haunted rooms.

The attraction has been open all month with the annual Halloween potluck party taking place on October 13 which saw guests tucking into a spooky themed dinner, tropical punch, candy and watching scary movies back to back.

Downtown was founded by Mary Jorgensen when she opened the first home in 1984, one of the first residents was Jane Fischer, who has Down’s Syndrome.

Jorgensen died in July 2016 aged 74, but Fischer is still with us, in fact she attended the potluck party earlier this month.

Fischer is the longest-living resident at the home, she is now “retired”, but for the first 20 years she worked in the office helping man the reception.

Paying tribute to her niece, Kecia Stinnett, executive director of Downstown, said: “Mary had a higher calling for these individuals. She wanted them to have a home of their own.”

Halloween is the second largest commercial holiday in America behind Christmas.