ILO Update: Integrated Living Opportunities is Growing!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Hello everyone, and thanks for taking the time to visit our website today!

A few weeks ago, we promised our readers an update on the progress that we have been making with our newly created non-profit, Integrated Living Opportunities. We are a bit late coming through on that promise, but we have the best possible excuse for our tardiness: we have been so busy growing and expanding ILO that we are only now getting the chance to sit down and write about everything that has been happening!

For those of you who are new to the blog, ILO is a 501c3 non-profit created by M&L owner/founder Maedi Tanham Carney CFP®, CWIC and a group of “founding families” in the Maryland and Washington, D.C. area. ILO was created with the objective of bringing together families, self-advocates, community groups and organizations with the purpose of establishing sustainable, integrated, communities for adults with special needs. (To learn more about ILO’s mission, core values, etc. please click here.)

If this sounds like something you are interested in, or if you have been following our progress as we develop special needs communities in Maryland and Washington, D.C., then please join us! We will be sharing our latest progress with the New Futures Initiative™ training process, the development of our newest communities, and our short and long-term goals for the organization and special needs community development in general.

New Futures Initiative™ Training

Those of you who have been following M&L’s community development project and the creation of ILO are probably familiar with Center for Independent Futures’ New Futures Initiative™ training. In a nutshell, the NFI training was developed by CIF to help organizations and families develop community-based housing (modeled after CIF’s Community Living Option™ housing model) in their own neighborhoods.

Here at M&L, we cannot stress enough how important the New Futures Initiative™ training has been to our special needs community development, and how important it is to the networks of support being created by ILO. Families who take part in this training are essentially handed a blueprint to special needs housing; they are taken through the process step by step, and are given the tools and information that they need to take housing development into their own hands.

All participating families in ILO have either completed (or are in the process of completing) this training. The first core group of families – affectionately referred to as the founding families – finished the NFI training last year. Our second group of participating families of ILO completed days 1 and 2 earlier this year, and will attend the second and final phase of the training next month, June 5th and 6th. We are so excited to see our participating families of ILO near the completion of their NFI training, and are looking forward to seeing how they put this training to use in their own neighborhoods.

If you would like more information on the NFI training process, or housing for individuals with special needs, please contact us! We love nothing more than the change to discuss and share our vision of integrated, sustainable communities for individuals with disability.

Developing Communities

At ILO, we recognized early on that “community” just doesn’t happen; rather, it is created. From the very beginning we knew that if we wanted our self-advocates to live in integrated communities we must focus our attention on community-building as well as developing housing – and we have been. As a part of the NFI training, participating families of ILO are taught about building community partnerships, i.e. meeting and developing relationships with peers, other families with special needs, and community groups such as non-profits churches, disability service providers, etc. (to learn more about community partnerships, please click here.)

With this in mind, participating families of ILO have taken it upon themselves to create “community pods” in both Maryland and Washington, D.C. In Maryland, Debbie Fickenscher (mother of Elaine, ILO’s first self-advocate to achieve independent living,) is spearheading a committee to work with families interested in joining an ILO community in Germantown. A similar committee has sprung to life in Washington, D.C. where we expect our first self-advocate in that area to achieve independent living by late June.

Through building community partnerships and developing “pods”(groups of ILO self-advocates living in close proximity), we are laying the groundwork for fully integrated, inclusive, independent lives for our self-advocates. If you are interested in learning more about ILO communities and our networks of support, or to speak with committee members in either Maryland or D.C., please let us know!

ILO’s Future Goals

Now that ILO is officially a 501c3 certified non-profit, we are excited to begin working to get our organization’s mission, our core values, and our objectives out there to the general public. With this in mind, one of our most pressing short-term goals is the development of our very own ILO website. We currently have web designers and content writers hard at work on this project, so stay tuned to our blog for an announcement regarding the website’s launch!

In addition to working to create awareness of ILO and integrated communities in general, the participating families of ILO are also focused on fine-tuning the organizational structure of our organization. We were lucky to receive some expert guidance in this task from Northwestern University professor Paul Arnston. Arnston, an expert in communication and community development, recently hosted a full day conference for participating families of ILO, during which he spoke on topics such as shared leadership, recruitment, & how to facilitate the creation and support of family living pods, and long term support of the community (among others). Our participating families of ILO were then able to develop a list of tasks that we have all agreed are incredibly important to the future of ILO, such as fine-tuning administrative/financial roles and controls, identifying potential residential options and community pods, creating a decision making process, securing funding, establishing social and recreational networks, etc. Participating families of ILO will meet again on May 12th to begin tackling these tasks, and taking the next steps to ensuring ILO’s growth.

This conference was incredibly informative, and an invaluable source of information for the participating families of ILO. From all of us at ILO, and M&L, we would like to take this opportunity to thank Paul for taking the time to come see us. It really has been an exciting few months!

Would You Like More Information?

Again, thank you for visiting our blog today! We hope that you are as excited about and inspired by the progress that we are making with ILO. If building communities for individuals with special needs is something that is relevant to your family, then please be sure to visit our blog archive – on the right hand side of our website, select Independent Living For Individuals with Disabilities from the drop down box titled Blog Categories to see all of our posts on this topic. You may also wish to visit our Independent Living Program and Housing Project database, an online listing of more than 2000 independent living programs and housing options from across the United States, to learn more about communities for individuals with special needs in your area.




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