Coalition for Community Choices: “Community Can Be Experienced in All Residential Settings”

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Regular readers of our blog may be aware that M&L Special Needs Planning is currently involved in special needs community development plans that focus on creating housing in the Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. areas. And, as we announced in the blog that we published last week, we are currently the East Coast Representative for the Center for Independent Futures’ (CIF) New Futures Initiative – a training program designed to help families and organizations replicate the CIF housing model in their own area.

Because of our professional and personal involvement in the field of special needs planning – particularly in the field of special needs communities – we feel that it is incredibly important to continue to promote the movement towards creating more community living choices for individuals with special needs, and away from limiting the options available to these individuals.

That is why when we came across the Voices Uniting: Coalition for Community Choice webpage on the Madison House Autism Foundation website, we felt it was important to write a blog and shed some light on the important work that the organization is doing to achieve exactly that – a unified voice for increasing housing options and decreasing barriers to housing choice for individuals with disabilities.

What is the Coalition for Community Choice?

The Coalition for Community Choice (CCC) self-describes as, “a national grassroots collaboration of persons with disabilities, their family and friends, disability rights advocates, professionals, educators, and housing and services providers to advance the principle that community can be experienced in all residential settings.”

The CCC operates according to three obligations – the first being the commitment to promoting and defending the rights of individuals with disabilities to choose their housing option from a broad range of housing options (vs. the small menu of options that currently exist). Their second obligation revolves around their commitment to educating federal and state governments on “innovative Olmsted-compliant housing alternatives to one-size-fits-all approaches to housing.” The third obligation is the organization’s commitment to preserve access to publicly funded services and supports in housing settings.

According to the CCC’s website, the organization believes in a number of principles –these principles are grounded in the CCC’s belief that the individual has the right to choose for him or herself in regards to everything housing related, including the type of housing or living option, support service and service provider. The CCC also believes that the government should support this right to choose, provide programs that allow for more residential choices[i], and to refrain from limiting or overturning decisions that would create barriers to housing choices.

How does the CCC help increase housing options for individuals with disabilities?

In the CCC’s Voices Uniting announcement, the organization referenced a rule change proposal from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). This proposed rule change suggested defining what settings that people with disabilities could use for their Home and Community-Based Service (HCBS) waivers. Note: HCBS waivers are a source of government funding allowing individuals to choose their own service providers.

The suggested changes incited an outpouring of criticism and it was pointed out that they actually restrict housing options, instead of opening up new opportunities for individuals with disabilities. In the rule change, the terms “home” and “community” were clearly defined, thus eliminating the opportunity for the individual with a disability to choose his or her own definitions. Without the ability to choose and/or define what a “home” and “community” means for themselves, the individuals are restricted to housing choices that fall within the confines of the CMS’ definitions. This battle over definition as a restricting element is the crux of the matter – there are those who believe that leaving the terms “home” and “community” undefined will increase the housing and community options for individuals with disabilities. There are also those who believe the definitions should stand, or that the two terms should be defined albeit in less restrictive wording. (For a more detailed discussion, the CCC directs readers to Choice vs. Olmstead.)

In response to the overwhelming criticism, the CMS has rewritten the suggested rule change twice since then: according to the CCC, the second draft was also heavily criticized, as the definitions of home and community were found to be restrictive.

The third and latest draft has just been released, and the CCC is hard at work writing a brief that they feel will explain what the changes mean for current housing options and the future of innovative housing for individuals with disabilities in general.

In addition to this, the CCC and the Madison House Autism Foundation are committed to bringing together individuals who wish to advocate for and explore strategies to ensure that people with disabilities (not policymakers) have the right to define – and therefore choose – their own home and community. Over the course of several months, the CCC has been successful in uniting advocates, and has grown into a “robust network of organizations which are dedicated to increasing options and decreasing barriers to housing choice for people with disabilities.” Yesterday, March 5th, 2014, 40 organizations from 16 states have signed a letter to Marilyn Tavenner, Administrator of CMS. The letter was written to introduce the CCC as a new, national coalition and to thank Ms. Tavenner and her team for “developing more out-come oriented guidelines for HCBS settings.” M&L Special Needs Planning, LLC is proud to be one of the 40 organizations that signed that letter, and we look forward to supporting the CCC in the future. If you would like to read the letter in full, please visit the Madison Housing Autism Foundation website.

Would you like to Support the CCC?

The CCC and Madison House Autism Foundation are reaching out to likeminded individuals and organizations to join the advocacy efforts, and to work towards increasing housing options for individuals with disabilities. To list yourself or your organization as a supporter of the CCC and this movement, please contact Desiree Kameka via email DKameka@madisonhouseautism.org.

More Information?

If you would like more information about community options for individuals with disabilities in general, please visit the Housing Section of M&L’s website to learn about our Independent Living Program and Housing Project database – an online resource with independent living programs and housing options from across the United States, housing option definitions, articles and studies related to housing for individuals with special needs. You may also wish to read more about M&L’s special needs community development projects, or you can always give us a call or send an email with any questions you may have, or request for more information. As well, check out our workshop series – we are available to offer these workshops in a location of your choice (and yes, we are willing/would love to travel).

Thanks for taking the time to drop by today! We hope that you learned a little bit about and were inspired by the CCC and its efforts to promote and open up housing options for individuals with disabilities. Don’t forget to join us next week!

Happy Thursday!


[i] The CCC recognizes that the government cannot provide for everyone currently nor in the future, therefore the CCC encourages government regulations and policy to support private-public partnerships to foster locally developed solutions, increasing person centered options to meet the overwhelming demand for housing options.
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