ILO and the Importance of Forming and Implementing Community Partnerships

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

In our last post, the staff of M&L wrote about an organization that is very near and dear to our hearts: Integrated Living Opportunities (ILO). ILO is a non-profit organization that is being created by a core group of founding families, under the guidance of M&L and Center for Independent Futures (CIF). The objective of this organization is to bring family groups together to establish integrated, sustainable and inclusive communities, through the use of community partnerships. (To read the post on ILO in full, please click here.)

Last week, we focused on what ILO is, the different steps involved in joining ILO, and the different services this organization will provide to families with special needs. Today, we would like to focus on what we mean by the phrase “community partnerships”, including a discussion of how they are formed, and why they are important to independent living.

We will also provide you with some insight as to why the founding families in our first core group chose to join ILO and jump on board with the community partnership concept.

What is meant by the term “community partnership”?

There are 54 million people with disabilities currently living in the United States (and this number is growing). Each one of these 54 million people needs somewhere to live, to be provided with supports, and to have access to any resources that he or she may need to live as independently as possible. Currently, individuals with disabilities rely on government funding and programs to meet this need – but, as I’m sure you realize, funds and support are in scarce supply.

When CIF first opened their doors, they realized that the amount of people that need support from the government for independent living and programming far exceeded available resources; so, they began to look to themselves and the community to find these supports. That is how the concept of community partnership was born – from the need to provide housing and a community of support for our family members with disabilities ourselves, using networks of support and by building and investing in community relationships.

So, when we use the term “community partnerships” we refer to the process of meeting and developing relationships with peers, other families with special needs, and community groups such as churches, non-profit organizations, disability service providers, and social services organizations, all with the joint goal of creating independent living opportunities (that are sustainable) for our family members with special needs. Together, we can pool our resources (time, funding, connections, etc.) and develop networks of mutual support as we work towards a common goal.

Why are Community Partnerships important?

Community partnerships are important for one simple reason: they offer a new way of developing communities for individuals with disabilities. This new community development model is based on creative thinking, and focuses on growth and development that will lead to greater independence.

There are a number of other benefits to be gained from using community partnerships as a community development model for your family member with special needs:

– Flexibility and control: using these partnerships, you can create communities that are tailor-made to fit the needs of your family member with special needs – by creating your own community, you won’t have to adhere to “one size fits all” rules and regulations that often govern agency-run housing programs.

– Legacy: As we mentioned last week, by creating ILO and developing new community living models using community partnerships, we are creating a movement towards sustainable, integrated communities. Other families and individuals with special needs will use the community development model you created in the future, and you will be creating a legacy for others to follow.

– Financial Feasibility: By joining with other families and organizations, the financial burdens of creating communities are lessened; when everyone works together, individuals can both give and receive.

As we mentioned earlier, community partnerships exist when members of the community reach out to support each other, pool resources, and work towards a common goal. In our case, that common goal is to develop independent living for our young adults with special needs – communities that are integrated, sustainable, and can provide these individuals with the supports needed to live as independently as possible. When we all work together, anything is possible.

The Founding Families – Why They Chose To Develop Special Needs Communities

Here at M&L, we call the first group of families to take the New Futures Initiative™ training the “founding families”. This group of committed parents chose to take a leap of faith, to be the pioneers and band together to replicated CIF’s Community Living Option ™ residences, a housing model which is a proven and successful model in Evanston, Illinois, other counties in Illinois, and a few additional states.  The founding families had to grasp the concept of community partnerships and their importance of creating a community development model that is sustainable.

To commit to a project of this nature requires a substantial commitment of time, energy and resources – as well as the gumption to take a project from “a conversation about housing”, and see it all the way through to the finish. After the workshop on Tuesday October 21st at the Arc of Northern Virginia, we were curious about how and when the founding families decided to join this project. So, we asked!

As expected, their responses were varied; some pointed out that the timing was right for them, and that the housing model taught by CIF through New Futures Initiatives™ was what they envisioned would work for their child. Others suggested that the family rate (contact us for more info) fit their budget, and that they felt it was worth it to invest in their child’s future. Another family indicated that the presentations from M&L and CIF in Evanston helped convince them that this was the right choice for their family.

Here is one specific comment that the staff of M&L felt really stood out:

“The video of Avi and his parents was significant for me. Hearing Ann and Jane speak was great but people promoting can always make it sound great … Seeing how Avi was living and the scenes with Brianna gave me such a positive feeling.”

In short, all these families – from different backgrounds, with difference challenges, needs, and resources – all came together to create communities for their loved one with special needs. This is how community partnerships work, and why they are important – because the young adults of these families will be able to live independently, sustainably, realize their fullest potential and live the way their dreams dictate.

Would you like more information?

Thank you all so much for taking the time to read our blog today! If you would like more information on community partnerships, or how to form community partnerships in your neighborhood with the end goal of creating independent living opportunities, please contact us! We are more than happy to talk with you about the process of creating special needs community development, and we are looking for families to join ILO and commit to creating special needs community living opportunities in Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. If you would like more information on special needs community development in general, please click here to access our blog archive.

Have a great day everyone – see you all next week!

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