Independent living is identified by IDEA 2004 as a postschool outcome to be addressed in transition planning. It does not mean that school personnel are responsible for finding housing. It does mean that the team acknowledges that, if a student identifies independent living as a postsecondary goal, they need to develop transition activities to support that goal.
There are a number of reasons students might identify identify housing as a goal. Among them:
- Some students want to live as independently as their peers or siblings are preparing to do
- Some students are exiting out of foster care
- Some students are homeless
- Some are leaving state custody
In all these cases, transition team members must be aware of available options and the steps needed to plan for them. This includes developing measurable postsecondary goals related to independent living and self-advocacy.
Traditional housing options
Traditionally, housing options for individuals who need some kind of community living support are limited to a continuum of programs, including large group facilities, small group homes supporting anywhere from four to ten people, clustered apartments, semi-independent living, or independent apartment living. Although these options may appeal to some people, long waiting lists frequently exist. Also, it can take years for individuals to gain all the prerequisite skills necessary to prove to agencies that they are "ready" to live on their own.
In a more person centered approach, residential planning involves recognizing what kind of living situation the individual envisions. It also means working to assure that the options being pursued would not disrupt the person's relationships with families, friends, and neighbors. A person centered approach for housing involves brainstorming community living options, identifying the community supports and resources available, assessing what skills are needed, and choosing adaptations and training that the individual would benefit from.
Individualized housing options
There are four types of non-facility based housing options for individuals with disabilities, including:
- Individuals living in their own apartments with wrap-around support services
- Individuals living with roommates who are compensated to provide assistance
- Individuals living at home with family and receiving in-home supports
- Individuals pursuing home ownership
Subsidized housing options
There a few federal housing options for people with disabilities. One is the Housing Choice Vouchers, often referred to as Section 8. These vouchers promote self determination because the vouchers are portable, meaning that people can choose where they want to live. The vouchers basically work as rent subsidies or they can be applied towards the purchase of a home. The downside to this option are long waiting lists and extremely slow turnover. For more information, go to Housing Choice Voucher Fact Sheet on the US Department of Housing and Urban Development site
Another federal solution is the Low Income Housing Tax Credits, through which developers put aside a specific number of housing units for low-income families. Rents for these units cannot exceed 30% of a family's income. Families can use this option to develop multifamily units that meet their needs. For more information, go to Low Income Housing Basics
Community living supports
There are a number of more creative living supports that teams might consider to support community living, including:
- roommates or housemates
- in-home support staff
- budget assistance
- personal security systems
- private counseling
- housing assistance
- college students
- independent living center support for personal care asssistance
Advice to get started:
To begin a housing discussion, consider a person centered planning approach, which asks about the person's vision. Work with the student and family to advocate for an agency that will support a student's vision of community living and be familiar with federal assistance options.