What are the Options for Housing and How Do I Find Them?
Finding the right residential option for a young adult with autism is certainly one
of the most difficult parts of the transition process. There are different options
to choose from, but several hurdles to get over before the individual is settled in the right place.
The most important thing is to build the skills necessary for your young adult to live as independently as possible as an adult.
It is critical to be proactive when it comes to choosing the right residential option.
Think first about what’s best for your child as an individual based on his or her needs, abilities, strengths, etc.
A great place to start is your school district. They can help, or they can tell you where you can go to get help. Check in with other families you know who have a family member with autism or other developmental disability. If you don't know any personally, you can most likely find some families through support groups, local autism organizations, etc.
To find out about options in your area, contact state and local agencies to speak about residential options. This is hard work and will take time, but it is critical to uncover all possible options in your community and the surrounding area. The hard work will be worth it in the long run.
Once you find some good options, ASK LOTS OF QUESTIONS!
Some Questions to Ask
When reviewing housing options you may want to consider:
1. How much experience does the provider have in working with individuals with
disabilities? Autism in particular?
2. How does the agency help transition the individual from his own home to the new
residential facility? What do they do to smooth the process?
3. What kind of training does the staff receive? How often are they on duty?
4. What is the staff turnover rate? Staff to resident ratio?
5. How does the staff deal with emergencies?
6. How structured is the schedule? What does the schedule look like?
7. What activities take place both in and out of the home? Is there any interaction
with the community at large?
8. How will my family be involved in the plan of services?
9. Can I talk to other families with experience in these facilities?
10. What clinical staff do you have?
11. What is the situation with day programs/vocational services/life skills training,
Autism Residential Placement Options: ARCHWay – State Developmental Disabilities
Agencies and Service: A Starting Point
Types of Housing Options
The issue of housing can be complicated. It is important to research all types of
options, and continue to narrow down your list until you find the best fit. Each
type of residential program is designed to provide a different level of support for
the residents in the program. Below, we have provided information about residential program options as well as funding options as outlined in: Opening Doors: A Discussion of Residential Options produced by the Urban Land Institute Arizona, Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center and Arizona State University.
Residential Program Options
Transitional residential programs offer a relatively short-term (e.g. one month to two years) residential experience with the expressed goal of transitioning the individual back to their previous environment or a new residence upon completion of the program.
Transitional programs generally fall into one of three categories:
programs providing intensive inpatient behavioral evaluation and intervention for
individuals with severe behavior disorders;
2) programs providing an intensive life skills course of instruction for individuals who, upon completion of the program, are expected to live independently; and
3) college support programs.
Supported Living Supported living programs provide residential services to adults with developmental disabilities who are able to live in self-owned or leased homes in the community.
Among the core tenets of supporting living are that
1) everyone, independent of current skills sets, can benefit from supported living;
2) programming and instruction are directed by the consumer and not by the program;
3) to be effective, communities of support must be built around the person and promote their involvement, and;
4) smaller numbers result in greater levels of community integration. Supported living is designed to foster the individual’s full membership in the community as they work toward their long-term personal goals.
Supervised living is a residential model designed to provide services to individuals
with ASDs with greater oversight and direction than might be provided in a supported living context, but less than group home living. In supervised living, the homes may be self-owned or leased. Although individual residences may be small (generally no more than one or two adults with autism per residence), there may be a number of such residences scattered throughout the apartment building or housing complex, allowing for greater staff accessibility and oversight.
Groups Homes (Supported and Supervised)
With the onset of de-institutionalization came the movement of individuals with ASDs
and other developmental disabilities from large, congregate care facilities to smaller, more typical homes in the community. Group homes exist in every state. They are small, residential facilities (i.e. actual homes) located in the community and designed to serve children and adults with ASDs, intellectual disabilities or other chronic conditions.
Typically, group homes have eight or fewer occupants and are staffed 24 hours a day by trained agency staff. Ownership of the house usually lies with the provider agency (as do staffing decisions) and not with the residents of the house. A primary goal of group home living is to promote increasingly greater levels of independence in the residents. As such, instruction in daily living and self help skills including meal preparation, laundry, housecleaning, home maintenance, money management, hygiene, showering, dressing and appropriate social interactions are provided by the agency staff.
It can be challenging and confusing to navigate the funding streams for housing
for your young adult with autism. Each state has varying programs and
guidelines, so you will need to research funding options specific to your state.
The state page of the Autism Speaks Resource Guide will provide you with some of the contacts necessary to begin this process. The following list outlines some of the national programs that provide funding for services such as housing:
Medicaid – Title 19 – for medical necessity, paid directly to the service provider, not specific to housing. This is not specific to housing services, but is based upon the
services delivered. A person must qualify for Developmental Disability Services in their state. States have a required match which can be used for room and board.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) – paid directly to recipients. This is income to
cover everything except medical care. An individual must be disabled and have a limited income.
Large donor/charitable organization (simplest model) – a single donor or multiple donors contribute the construction/acquisition funding through a 501(c)(3) organization that serves the developmentally disabled population.
Private pay (can be families together with other families) – Families with resources pay for all services and the facilities together with other families. Low income housing (greatest single source of funding) – Federal and state funds are
granted to construction housing for low-income and special needs populations.
HUD Section 811- This program provides interest-free capital advances to
nonprofit sponsors to develop rental housing for low-income persons with
Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) – This program allows qualified forprofit and nonprofit developers to apply, on a state-by-state program, for federal
tax credits that they can sell to investors and use the proceeds as equity for the
development of apartment complexes for persons below 60 percent area median
HUD Section 202 – Similar to 811, this program is available only to nonprofit
organizations that target both low-income seniors and frail elderly by providing
capital advances to finance the construction, rehabilitation or acquisition of
structures and also provides rent subsidies for projects to help make them more
Home Program – This program provides formula grants and loans to state and
local participating jurisdictions to expand housing opportunities for low and
moderate income individuals and households.
Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) – CDBG's are grants to
jurisdictions which can be used to support affordable housing through land
acquisition and infrastructure development.
HUD Section 811 Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV) – These vouchers are
dispersed directly by HUD to persons with disabilities to spend on the housing
option of their choosing.
HUD Section 8 HCV – This voucher program is for individuals with below 60% of
the area median income, including disabled persons.
Home and Community Based Waivers (HCBS) – Some states may offer a
variety of services to consumers under an HCBS waiver program. These
programs may provide a combination of both traditional medical services (dental
services, skilled nursing services) as well as non-medical services (i.e. respite,
case management and/or environmental modifications). Family members and
friends may be providers of waiver services if they meet the specified provider