Housing Concerns For Individuals With Disabilities
Among the most important values and goals shared by people with disabilities, their families, and advocates are being part of the community and living as independently as possible. A home of one’s own – either rented or owned – is the foundation of freedom for people with disabilities. As those with disabilities age, several questions about their future care become relevant: Will he or she ever be able to move out of the family home? With whom will they live? Where will they live? Who will take care of them?
Trying to coordinate housing for those with disabilities can often be challenging. Preparing for home living means more than simply finding a place to live. Home living takes into account any supportive services that person might need, for example, healthcare and medication management, financial management, social and recreational needs, mobility issues, legal rights, self-advocacy, and transportation concerns. Also, It may be difficult for a family to imagine their child living on his or her own.
The first step in the process is to talk about visions for the future from the viewpoints of both the family and the disabled person. Even though starting this process at age 14 may seem premature to some families, it is important to begin this process then, however, so the child’s future is centered on what is best suited for him or her. This type of planning for people with disabilities is called “Person-Centered Planning.” It is a way of thinking that focuses on the dreams, outcomes, and visions of the individual. It is a process guided by an individual’s and family’s unique vision, likes, and dislikes. Person-Centered Planning focuses on the people and families rather than programs, and is a way to bring together everyone important to the person: family, friends, neighbors, support workers, and other professionals. Some questions to keep in mind when assessing the individual’s needs and wants for housing include:
- Where does the person want to live?
- What do they need to be happy?
- Can he or she live alone or is support needed?
- How much support does he or she need now?
- Are there any health and safety issues to consider?
- Will they need to live close to family as part of his or her support system?
- Would the individual like to live by him- or herself or with roommates?
- What are the characteristics of those who will best support the person?
- What kinds of housing options are available in the community?
- What is the neighborhood like? Is the residence accessible? Is it affordable? Is it near transportation?
After gathering this information, the results will need to be discussed and a plan developed in order to see how housing might fit into the picture. Keeping in mind the person’s vision, it is important to identify the main considerations for achieving a desirable lifestyle: What are the disabled person’s hopes and dreams? What level of independence does he or she desire and what supports will she or he need to achieve these goals? Some of the essential factors to consider are education, individualized training, successful employment, and an integrated life in the community. If the individual is unable to express their own opinions, those who know the person well, will have to consider their strengths and interests and make decisions for her or him. Because housing becomes an integral part of the vision and lifestyle plan, it is best to begin by asking the individual where he or she wants to live. If they have not had an opportunity to understand the differences in housing options, they may want to visit friends and families who live in different settings in the community.
Initially, the individual may not like the thought of leaving home. As with all children, moving out can be an exciting time, yet it can be a time of concern. Addressing the person’s joys and fears will be a necessary part of the process. Discussing fearful situations they might encounter being on his or her own can help to plan for social, safety, and economic concerns such as the ability to maintain the appropriate supports, separation from the family, vulnerability, social isolation, and the ability to be employed. It is important to examine what is making the individual fearful. Some fears may be realistic and others may not be. By networking with parents and friends, and actively seeking out information, some of these fears may be alleviated.
It is often difficult to find a place to live that is affordable, accessible, available, and where the person wants to live. Also, additional supports for young adults are often complicated and costly. Each individual is unique. There is no model for obtaining housing and support.
Individuals with disabilities now have a greater choice than ever in where they can live. However, eligibility requirements can be strict due to limited funding. The following factors can have an impact on their options:
- The individual’s resources — wages, trusts, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), county services, Medical Assistance, Home and Community-based waivers
- The family’s resources — financial commitment, time, energy, and networks
- Community resource options — availability of suitable housing, community development, accessible housing, low-income or Section 8 housing
- State resources — financial support, state housing agency and planners, state disability resources
Many new changes in the way a person with a disability can access housing and services have emerged and are being developed. See Kokua Network's Residential Options Bootcamp here.
Once parents and their son or daughter with a disability have determined the most desirable and appropriate housing situation, the next step is to explore how much can be spent on housing. Creating a list of expenses is crucial. It is essential to look at possible income, Medicaid, SSI, SSDI, work income, and family contributions. There are no simple answers when it comes to obtaining payment for housing. Eligibility criteria for the individual’s specific disability will become a determining factor for most funding.
Much is involved when planning housing for an individual with disabilities. It is important to plan early and plan ahead so that options don’t become limited and affect the long-term vision. Limited funding, availability of supports, services, and affordable housing will also have an affect on options.