Madison House Autism Foundation: Indigo Trails

 September 19, 2013
Posted by M&LAdmin4

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

As many of you are probably aware, the staff of M&L Special Needs Planning is very close to releasing our Independent Living Program and Housing Project database. This one-of-a-kind database will launch in late October, giving subscribers unprecedented access to information on housing programs for individuals with disabilities from every state, including approximate costs, funding options, eligibility criteria and general housing information. In addition, the database will be searchable by state – saving valuable time, and helping families narrow their options to a particular region of the country. (To be notified of the specific date of the launch, please subscribe to our newsletter).

In order to get this database up and running, we have spent countless hours researching, reading and speaking to people in the United States who create, fund, and run these programs. Along the way, some of these organizations and programs have stood out from the rest, and we had to share them with you – you may remember our interviews with Jane Doyle of the Center for Independent Futures (we will be hosting a housing seminar with the folks from CIF on October 12 – click here for more information) and Doreen Cummings of Jewish Family and Children’s Services. We also examined Riverview School’s G.R.O.W program, the Maryland Ability Project, and Specialized Housing Inc., among others. Note: If you would like to see all of our blog posts on housing, please visit our blog archive

This week, we have come across yet another organization that we feel is doing something incredible with housing for individuals with disabilities: Madison House Autism Foundation, located in Rockville, Maryland.

What is Madison House Autism Foundation?

Madison House Autism Foundation (MHAF) is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to creating awareness as to the challenges that face individuals with autism as they age into adulthood – the organization pledges to “find, develop and promote the solutions that allow adults with autism to make choices, live as independently as possible, hold jobs, feel connected to their communities, and become participating members of society.[i]

Above all, however, MHAF works to “enable community collaborations.” According to the organization’s statistics, more than 500,000 individuals with autism will age into adulthood this decade, and the MHAF feels as if these individuals will require more support than can be provided by the government alone. They feel that is it important to create partnerships and receive support from all sectors, and are committed to facilitating conversations, sponsoring events that raise awareness, and developing solutions to ensure that these collaborations between families, the government and the private sector happen.

Specifically, MHAF focuses on research, advocacy, and housing – they sponsor a program, Arts for Autism, which creates the opportunity for individuals with autism to self-express, develop relationships, and outreach to the community at large. They train and educate first responders and medical professionals as to how to understand and treat individuals with autism appropriately. One of their largest projects is the collaboration with John Hopkins University to “undertake a comprehensive, multi-discipline study of the issues, challenges, and opportunities faced by adults with autism and their families.[ii]” The organization’s work with housing for individuals with autism includes two innovative and interesting projects – we will discuss these projects in greater detail below.

MHAF and Housing

As mentioned, MHAF is currently working on two projects that address the housing crisis for individuals with disabilities, specifically individuals with autism – the Autism Housing Network, and the first for-profit, private sector housing model, Indigo Trails.

Autism Housing Network

The Autism Housing Network is an online community for adults with autism and their families, dedicated, of course, to housing. Through this online network, the organization envisions the collaborative sharing of ideas between adults with autism and their families, as they look for housing solutions. The organization hopes that all members of this online community will learn from the “challenges faced along the way by hundreds of groups, families, and passionate leaders working to solve the housing crisis for adults with autism.[iii]” The website will include pages for a national user-created housing directory, resources, blog, forum, and a page which will allow users to form groups.

The Autism Housing Network is currently in beta testing – the shell of the website is up and running (you can visit it here) but the majority of the pages are under construction. For more information on this network and how to use it, please visit the website’s tutorial page. The MHAF is currently looking for corporate sponsors to help the organization expand, distribute, and monitor content of the network.

Indigo Trails

The MHAF’s website states that the current need for housing for individuals with autism exceeds 50,000 units/year – a need that is impossible for the government to meet alone. By looking away from the government to meet the current housing demand, Indigo Trails instead sees the MAHF partnering with experts to design and construct a “prototype residential community for individuals with autism and other intellectual disabilities.” Through the Indigo Trails housing model, the organization has arrived at a solution to the housing crisis that fits in with their commitment to collaboration and community empowerment, while harnessing the power of the private sector.

According to the MHAF, the housing model itself is designed around current successful (and profitable) living options for seniors, and will engage the cooperation of community, cultural, university and legislative partners.  It is the hope that the success of Indigo Trails will inspire acceptance, and engage partners in the cultural and social community, as well as legislative support. As the model is designed to be scalable and easily replicable, the MHAF intends for Indigo Trails to act as an example of a housing solution that diverts responsibility away from the government, and into the hands of a group of collaborators that all stand to benefit – individuals needing housing, contractors, communities, etc.

One of the more interesting aspects of this housing model (in our opinion) is that Indigo Trails will be located next to a retirement community where the parents of the individual may wish to reside. In addition to this, the site includes another support and family oriented feature – housing options for married couples with disabilities, to be called “casita’s”, are currently being incorporated into site design.

To support their hope that Indigo Trails will become a replicable model, the MHAF is currently looking to establish a $2M seed fund. This seed fund will be available to other groups/organizations looking to establish similar housing models until other revenue streams are in place. Once these organizations secure revenue streams, the borrowed funds are to be repaid into the seed fund, thus providing financing for other housing models.

Currently, Indigo Trails is in the design and construction stages; for more information, individuals can visit the MAHF website, or complete their contact form.

Need Help with Housing? Contact us!

We hope that this information has provided you with another housing option for your family member with special needs. If you or a family member with a disability is currently looking for a housing or independent living solution, please do not hesitate to contact us! We have professional and personal experience with finding housing solutions that meet the needs of the individual and his or her family; we can offer information on the range of options available, and the financial advice needed to ensure that the option you choose is affordable. As well, stay tuned for the launch of our Independent Living Program and Housing Project database – coming late October.

Thanks for dropping by today! Have a great weekend 🙂


[i] http://www.madisonhouseautism.org/about-us/

[ii] http://www.afaa-us.org/site/c.llIYIkNZJuE/b.8466619/k.44ED/Madison_House_Autism_Foundation.htm

[iii] http://www.madisonhouseautism.org/programs/

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