REACH Overview

Chapel Haven Schleifer Center is proud to offer a variety of programs that empower adults to live independent and self-empowered lives.

We are a 24-hour-a-day, seven day a week facility, offering a true network of services. We offer the following integrated programs:

  • REACH Program (Residential Education at Chapel Haven)
  • The REACH Day program - for non residential students
  • Community Programs (Supported Living, Bridge, Community Life, Employment, SAIL)
  • Recreation Program

Our newly transformed campus includes:

A new, 32,500 REACH residential and classroom campus to house Chapel Haven’s REACH program, which for 46 years has helped adults with cognitive and social disabilities learn to live independently.

A new Welcome Center that serves as the new gateway to our campus

A new Outdoor Living Room - a courtyard that knits the campus together and invites socialization

And construction is underway on a new, four-story residential community designed for older adults. Along with apartments, clinical space and community services, this addition will be universal in design and layout, and will be intergenerational, where adults with disabilities can flourish into their senior years in a vibrant and non-institutional setting.

The new REACH residential and classroom campus offers state-of-the-art, spacious apartments, new classrooms and plenty of space for students to recreate and learn in a center designed specifically for them.

We are proud to offer a robust community of adults who are eager to make new friends and live their adult lives to the fullest! 

Read on to learn more about the functional academics, life skills instruction, weekend recreation and vocational readiness programs that are the hallmarks of the REACH program. We are experts in helping young adults gain the skills they need to lead vibrant and happy adult lives.


Functional Academics

Chapel Haven's year-round Functional Academics Program is second to none.

We offer a wide range of coursework through a curriculum that encompasses 10 blended subject areas: Language Arts, Math and Science, Social Studies, Life Skills, Vocational Skills, Wellness, and Personal Enrichment, as well as an array of Continuing Adult Education classes. Chapel Haven's Special Education faculty teaches nearly 70 classes each quarter. These are the foundation from which special education students build lives of successful independence.

Classes on banking and budgeting, clothing management, cleaning, reading directions, and utilizing public transportation are taught by the teachers and supplemented by the Residential Life Skills Instructor. Classes on career exploration, resume writing, and workplace social skills complement the Employment Program.

Other electives include music, ceramics, drawing, athletics & yearbook

The goal of our education program is community integration. We draw on our extensive local resources by bringing professionals from the Greater New Haven community to our site to offer classes, workshops, and seminars. Whether it’s a local artist teaching painting, a New Haven professional conducting human sexuality seminars, or a human resources manager from a local corporation speaking on interviewing techniques, we endeavor to expose our students to as many community resources as possible.

Life Skills

It is our proven belief that the only way to teach independence is in a setting that imitates life. Beyond the average dormitory, Chapel Haven is unique in offering an apartment setting that helps individuals negotiate all aspects of independent living.

Over a 24-month period, our 30 students live in fully furnished and equipped apartments on campus, where they benefit from intensive one-to-one attention and life skills instruction. We teach young adults the day-to-day living skills that will be necessary for independent living when they graduate from the two-year residential program and become members of our Supported Living Program.

Experienced teachers and life skills instructors work hand in hand to blend lessons from the classroom into apartment instruction. Researching recipes on the Internet, price comparisons for laundry soap or orange juice and learning how to manage illness are examples of ways in which we coach our students to be savvy and smart consumers.

Because Chapel Haven is highly individualized, residents progress at their own speed.



Our students learn and practice:

  • household maintenance skills such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, menu planning, and shopping
  • mobility
  • managing finances, including banking and budgeting
  • self-care, including health, medication administration, hygiene, and safety facilitated by the Coordinating Teacher (CT) and the Life Skills Instructor (LSI).
  • Living with roommates


Our location in a small but vibrant cosmopolitan City offers our clients a broad range of cultural and sporting events to attend and provides rich opportunities for both recreation and volunteering.

New Bike Class is a great way to start the weekend!

A structured recreation program occurs on evenings and weekends. With 30 activities, on average, a month to choose from, the Recreation program is a key part of our curriculum, and teaches our clients to:

  • Manage free time
  • Master social etiquette
  • Make and nurture lifelong friendships
  • Manage money
  • Stick to a schedule

Activities range from a night out at the movies to theatre, athletics, chaperoned trips to Boston and New York City, as well as venues around the state including Gillette Castle and Sleeping Giant State Park.

The Outreach Center, located on the second floor the Bershaw Boswell Center, provides an organized socializing venue for social activities. Movies, bingo, word search, dances, karaoke, and arts and crafts are typical offerings, and students can also enjoy a giant screen television, a VCR, a DVD player, and videos.  Outreach Club happens on Mondays and Tuesdays. Wednesday night is reserved for Best Buddies, with students from Southern Connecticut State University's Best Buddies Chapter pairing up with our adults for a wide range of fun activities. 

Students also enjoy:

  • Special interests clubs
  • Special Olympics (track and field, swimming, bowling, basketball, soccer, tennis, softball)
  • The largest Best Buddies chapter in the State, where college volunteers from
    Southern CT State University serve as mentors to each student, year round
  • Recreational activities at the Jewish Community Center
  • Private art and music lessons on Audubon Street
  • A range of extracurricular opportunities.
  • A yearly trip to Crested Butte, Colorado for adaptive skiing
  • A yearly trip to Disney World in Orlando

The Recreation Program is included in Chapel Haven's REACH Program fees. Community Members also participate in the Recreation Program, many partaking in trips and activities designed for the more mature set.

Vocational Experience

Gainful employment is an important part of an independent lifestyle; therefore employment is woven into REACH and Community programs, offering progressively more challenging opportunities as the individual progresses.

More than 85% of clients are working at 30 agencies and companies in the area, in either supported or competitive employment settings. Chapel Haven’s prime location in an urban location with an extensive public transportation system makes an excellent location for job seekers.

REACH students take part in the Working Partnerships curriculum where they go off site with staff to learn about the etiquette of work, get help with resume preparation and receive a comprehensive job orientation. Chapel Haven’s assessment tool, uses 100 variables to measure each individual’s ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ skills that will help determine next steps in seeking employment.


Employment can mean:

The vocational process is outlined for each student at the start of the REACH program and the desire to work and live independently infuses the curriculum.

1 –Competitive employment – where individuals eventually work on their own, with support from a job coach, in either paid of volunteer opportunities. These placements typically involve a gradual reduction in job coaching hours as the student becomes more independent on the job site.

2 – Supported employment – working with other students at a job site with ongoing Chapel Haven supports.

Sampling of Chapel Haven's rotating work internships:

  • Walgreens
  • Westville Landscaping
  • Wilbur Cross High School
  • Fair Haven School

Community Service Exploration:

  • Book Bank
  • Soup Kitchen

In addition, Chapel Haven's newly established Center for Employment and Service Opportunities (CESO) helps Chapel Haven adults find meaningful and satisfying volunteer and paid employment opportunities.


Summer Residential Program


Our Summer Programs, taught by certified special education teachers, is designed specifically for special education students ages 18+ seeking a life-skills focused summer program to supplement their education.

Day Summer Program

The 9 a.m-3 p.m. day begins with classes, including Navigating the Supermarket, Cooking for Independence, and Math, Money and Living Within Your Means. After lunch (prepared during Cooking for Independence), summer students have an opportunity to socialize with Chapel Haven’s REACH students.

Residential Summer Program

Chapel Haven offers a Residential Summer Program for 18+ year olds, who are still in high school and ready to experience transitional independent living. Since 2002 we have offered a successful and popular Summer Residential Program. We offer a comprehensive, eight-week program focusing on daily living skills, functional academics and social recreational activities geared to summer fun. This is the perfect alternative to summer camp, particularly when future planning includes a transitional living program. In addition to offering a young adult the opportunity to have an “away from home” experience, our Residential Summer Program will afford the student a preview of “what happens after high school.”

Lifelong Supports

Most students who graduate from our REACH Program remain in New Haven after graduation. That's not surprising. After two years in New Haven, many have made strong social, vocational, and educational connections and see the city as a permanent home.

Bridge Program

open to recent graduates, as well as clients entering the Supported Living Program from other programs. Bridge participants live for one year in Chapel Haven owned properties on campus. Support Coordinators are assigned to each client. The Coordinating Teacher provides one-to-one and small group services based on individual needs. Learn More >

Supported Living Program

currently serves more than 170 Community Members, who regularly return to campus for socializing, Continuing Adult Education Classes, and Employment and Supported Living Programs. Nearly all Community Members live in condominiums and apartment complexes not far from campus. Learn More >

Chapel Haven supports include:

  • assistance with finding a roommate
  • identifying a desirable living community
  • securing an apartment or condo
  • initiating utility services
  • recommendations regarding the levels of support services as a new community member.

Community Life

The Community Life Program (CLP) is designed to offer a structured, community-focused day for individuals who are either not working or working a limited number of hours. Chapel Haven’s CLP provides participants with opportunities to explore, interact and volunteer in the Greater New Haven community.

The four cornerstones of the program are developing healthy lifestyles by increasing interpersonal skills and socialization, constructively managing free time, participating in regular exercise and healthy eating habits and enjoying the numerous offerings in the Greater New Haven community. Learn More >