Specialized Housing, Inc. – “Innovative Housing for Adults with Additional Needs”

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

Hello everyone! The staff of M&L Special Needs Housing, LLC hopes that you and your family had a safe and enjoyable weekend.

As many of you already know, we recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jane Doyle, co-founder and Executive Director of the Center for Independent Futures (CIF). During the course of the conversation, we discussed many things: the story behind the creation of the CIF, the services it provides, and – of particular interest to us – the nature of the housing supports and services it offers to individuals with disabilities. For those of you who haven’t had the chance to read this interview, it was featured in last week’s blog.

This week, we have decided to take an in-depth look at another housing program, Specialized Housing, Inc. While this organization differs from the CIF in terms of the types of services it offers, and the way in which it delivers these services, both organizations share a commitment to supporting independent living and community integrated housing options for adults with disabilities.

Specialized Housing, Inc.

The New England-based Specialized Housing, Inc. (SHI) was the first organization in the US to offer professional “home-ownership” support to adults with disabilities. Founded in 1983, their mission statement expresses a commitment to “provide[ing] supportive housing arrangements for adults with additional needs, enable[ing] these adults to lead rich and full lives as productive members of the community, and enable[ing] them to age in place.” Among the many services and supports it provides, the staff of SHI assist individuals with disabilities with the completion of daily tasks related to housekeeping, financial management, healthcare management, socialization, employment, and community integration. Additionally, the organization ensures that family members of these individuals have access to services and supports by offering consultation services related to long term planning, access to housing entitlement funds, and also by providing referrals for legal, estate, and other matters. (For a full list of services that this organization provides, please click here.)

With the support of SHI, individuals wishing to pursue home ownership as a housing option are able to purchase a “unit” in a supportive living environment. This unit, which is referred to as a condominium, consists of a private bedroom and an undivided share of common living spaces in the house. Families connected to the household  (in other words, family members of the other individuals who have purchased condominiums in the household) meet on a regular basis with SHI staff that are responsible for the clinical and administrative care for the residents of the housing unit; there are also individual progress meetings with family members of each resident. Furthermore, the housing unit has an “advisory board”, consisting of parents, siblings, and members at large from the community, which advises on policy matters and issues of long-term security.

In terms of household management, SHI staff and household support is present on site or through an on-call basis. Each resident lives as independently as he or she can, and all residents of each unit gather together to make joint decisions regarding household issues. For example, all decisions regarding household policies, chores, staffing issues, celebrations, etc. are made as a result of consensus between the residents of the house.

Resident share the ongoing, monthly costs associated with the maintenance of the housing unit. This includes utilities, staffing, food, housekeeping, and an amount designated for capital reserve, among other things. Owners of the condominium (usually family members of the resident) have an input as to the annual budgeting process.

How do I buy the Condominium?

There are two purchase options for individuals wishing to buy a SHI housing unit; the individual can either create a new household, or make a purchase into an existing household. In both cases, the individual looking for housing has to go through an assessment process. For individuals looking to create a new household, this assessment process involves meeting with and developing a relationship with clinical staff. For individuals looking to make a purchase in an existing home, the assessment process is a little more complicated. The prospective resident will still meet and develop a relationship with the clinical staff, however this process can include dinners, house meetings, and overnight stays. The prospective resident will need to spend time getting to know the other residents as well. If everyone involved feels as if the prospective resident will fit in with the other residents of the house, then he or she can begin the process of purchasing the condominium.

From a financial perspective, the condominium can be purchased like any other condo, and can be acquired through traditional real estate financing routes (i.e. mortgage, second mortgage, home equity loans, etc.). Although the price of each condominium can vary, each housing unit typically has a formula that lays out the maximum price that can be charged for each condominium. The seller may wish to sell the unit for less than this, and there can be negotiation between the buyer and seller. For additional financial information related to the purchase of a SHI housing unit, such as first time home buyer programs, tax breaks, and home entitlement funds, please contact the organization.

Who can live in SHI housing?

SHI housing is designed for adults with additional needs; the term “additional needs” can refer to individuals with developmental disabilities, hidden disabilities, physical disabilities, etc. – as SHI writes in it’s resident criteria, “as long as the individual wants to live with the others in the household, and needs the support offered in order to function as independently as he or she is able, the arrangement can work.”

There is a list of criteria for prospective residents, however, SHI recognizes and acknowledges that while certain individuals may require support in some areas, he or she may excel in others. Generally, however, individuals must be 18 years of age or older, have a social skill set that includes relating appropriately to peers, being receptive to rules, limits and structure, respecting property of others, verbalization and alertness, interest and motivation. The organization also suggests that prospective residents have basic life skills, such as good hygiene (with support – i.e. reminders) some reading and money management skills, and some independent travel skills. If these are not skills that the residents possess, then he or she must be willing to accept support. The organization also recommends that if the prospective resident has seizures, than these seizures are controlled by medication, and states that residents cannot be overmedicated in a way that affects daily behavior. SHI stresses that this list of criteria is very general, and strongly urges families of prospective residents to contact them with any questions or for more information regarding this criteria.

Learn More about Housing Options for Adults with Special Needs

Thank you for dropping by our blog today! We hope that it proved informative, and alerted you to another housing option available to individuals with special needs in the United States. If you would like to learn more about Specialized Housing, Inc. please visit their website, www.specializedhousing.org.

If you have any questions or would like more information about housing options for adults with special needs in general, please contact us! We love hearing from you, and pride ourselves on being a great resource for families with special needs. As well, over the last few months we have devoted a number of blogs to this topic. If you are interested in housing options for adults with special needs, please browse through our archives; you can find a list of published blogs here.

From the staff of M&L Special Needs Planning, LLC, have a great weekend!



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