Early Beginnings
The story of Shangri-La began in 1963, when fifteen families joined efforts to establish a place that would nurture and educate their children with special needs. Yearning for better care for their children with developmental disabilities than institutions of the time could offer,  the families pooled their private resources and purchased a 30-acre rural property just east of Salem, Oregon. The existing farmhouse was converted into several classrooms, and a larger school building was completed in 1965. Tuition for attendees was $55 per month which included “a hearty lunch” and bus transportation. Students ranged in age from 4 to 43 years of age. For the first 12 years of operation, Shangri-La was funded privately, and staffed by volunteers and a few direct-care workers.

Over the next 15 years, Shangri-La continued to deliver what was then considered state-of-the-art services. Shangri-La’s founders and families received extensive public, private and local support as they set out to assure excellence in what was to be a life-long home and education program. Children with developmental disabilities were provided safety, comfort, supports and services along with their families. Enrollment was sought by families across the nation. Shangri-La leaders and many in the newly forming national “disability community” believed that this new program piloting in Oregon was the model and hope for the future of developmentally disabled children and adults. At its peak, over 120 children were receiving loving and patient support at the Shangri-La school.

Responding to the needs of their changing population, in 1988 Shangri-La’s leadership began the transformation to a supported, community-integrated lifestyle. Shangri-La purchased homes in community neighborhoods, and with a few modifications, the children who had grown up with Shangri-La and were now adults, lived in 4-5 bedroom homes in their community.

In the early 2000s, Shangri-La began providing housing and employment services for people with disabilities in Newport and Florence, Oregon. Shangri-La now provides services to people with developmental disabilities at over 55 neighborhood homes.

Employment for People with Disabilities
In 1989, Shangri-La opened its first business, what is now Cherry City Woodshop, to provide employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Since then, Shangri-La has provided Supported Community Employment and Alternatives to Employment opportunities, and has started or acquired 9 business, all providing opportunities for people with disabilities or economic challenges. Today, Shangri-La’s Community Employment Services Program focuses on helping individuals with disabilities obtain community-integrated jobs.

Skills Training and Family Stabilization Supports
Employment Resources Northwest (ERN) was started in 1991 to deliver job training skills to vocational rehabilitation division clients at the Salem Rehabilitation Facility. By 1996, the program evolved and was serving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) clients who were seeking job skills training as a means of re-entering the workforce.

Today, the Employment Resources Northwest is now called Shangri-La Youth and Family Services. In addition to providing job-readiness training to TANF recipients, Youth and Family services also provides life skills and family management training to families at risk of child welfare intervention, and provides GED supports to teen parents. Over 3000 individuals receive support from Youth and Family Services each year.

Addition of Mental Health Services
Shangri-La’s history of providing services for people with mental illness started in 1997 with the Sherman Center which addressed the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness in person with developmental disabilities. The Sherman Center closed in 1998, but Shangri-La continued to offer mental health supports to people with developmental disabilities through a psychiatric clinic. Between 2000-2009, Shangri-La opened 8 Residential Treatment Homes (RTH) for people with mental illness in Jefferson, Newport, Albany, Eugene, Corvallis and Salem.

In addition to providing mental health services in Residential Treatment Homes, Shangri-La’s Independent Living Services (ILS) Program provides one-on-one support to people with mental illness in their own home. The supports are designed to assist individuals in living as independently as possible.

In 2016, Shangri-La launched its third program to support people with mental illness called Shangri-La’s Rental Assistance Program (SRAP). The program, operating only in Lane County, assists individuals in obtaining and remaining in affordable housing while increasing their independent living skills and teaching individuals how to be successful tenants and good neighbors.

In June 2017, Shangri-La opened outpatient mental health clinic in Salem and Eugene to meet the increasing need for mental health assessments, treatment planning, counseling, peer supports and behavioral consultations. Services are offered in an office or community-setting and through tele-medicine.

Permanent Housing for Homeless Individuals and Families
In March of 2006, Shangri-La began providing permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless individuals and families with disabilities through a partnership with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The program was named the Shangri-La Housing Assistance Program (SHAP). Today, the program operates in Marion and Lincoln counties and serves on average 25 people or families.