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Guide to Searching for Appropriate Housing Options

2002 [Revised July 31, 2014]

The following is a Guide to Searching for Appropriate Housing Options. As there are many people and caregivers unable to locate a suitable living environment, we are including this guide in the hope that it will benefit our visitors. The purpose of this guide is to provide information for people with disabilities who are 18 to 59 years of age, and does not necessarily offer information specifically for the elderly.

New Horizons Un-Limited assumes no responsibility in guaranteeing the services, programs or conditions as described. If you are interested in a resource listed below, call or contact the resource to verify the current situation. Carefully evaluate the information we provide and make your own decisions when using this guide.

Guide on Searching for Appropriate Housing Options

There is no question that the road to finding and obtaining a safe, affordable and appropriate living environment is a long one. There are so many options, so many agencies, and so much confusion. This guide is intended to provide individuals with disabilities and caregivers a very clear picture of the housing process. It will discuss your responsibilities as well as outline the criteria for each living environment. It will further discuss programs and organizations that are available to you throughout this process. This guide is intended to provide you with the information you need to begin your search. More specifically, this guide will discuss the options of Home Ownership, Indepdendent Living in an Apartment and Supported Living.

Each individual's circumstance will often determine the direction of the search. The very first step you must take in determining which living environment is most appropriate is to assess your needs and determine your abilities.

Once you determine the extent of care required, you would now be able to further assess your level of independence.

The next step you must take is to assess your financial situation.

While this list of questions is not exhaustive, your responses will help you determine what type of living environment is most appropriate. Following, you will find an outline of each environment and the appropriateness of each in accordance with your needs (in order of independence).

Home Ownership

Of course the most independent of all living environments is that of living in your own home. This situation requires a great deal of financial and physical and/or mental independence. While this environment may appear feasible, you must take many factors into consideration before getting involved in more than you are willing and able to take on. Consider the following:

This environment requires that you be fully capable of meeting all of your daily living needs (i.e. cooking, cleaning, shopping, basic hygiene, etc.) on your own or with minimal assistance. This option is also available to individuals that have immediate family, such as a spouse or child, that can offer daily assistance as needed. Of course there is also a possibility of either hiring a home aide or having a live-in companion. However, this option will raise additional financial concerns if you are not eligible for financial assistance. If you would like to learn more about hiring a home health aide, visit New Horizons Un-Limited: Guide to Searching for and Selecting a Home Health Aide.

Home ownership is most suitable for those with steady employment and/or disability benefits, therefore providing a steady, reliable income. It is very important to consider all of the costs involved. While a few are mentioned above, this list is not exhaustive; there are many "hidden" costs you must take into account. There is a possibility however, to save on the price of the home itself, through Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD offers homes, which have been foreclosed on, to low and moderately low income individuals. Many HUD homes are sold as is. This means that the home may require extensive repairs; repairs that you must finance. They also may not be located in the safest areas. This is not to say that you cannot find a beautiful home in a nice area, but you do want to make certain you research thoroughly. For more information on HUD homes, you can visit Housing and Urban Development: How to buy a HUD home.

If you feel owning your own home is indeed the most suitable living environment, you can continue your research by visiting Housing and Urban Development (HUD): People with Disabilities or Housing and Urban Development (HUD): Buying a Home. Both sections offer valuable information regarding searching for and purchasing a home.

For more on financing your home purchase, visit our Home Buying Guide for People with Disabilities: Financial Considerations and Options

Apartment/Home Rental

The second most independent living environment is an apartment or home rental. While this living arrangement requires the same level of physical and/or mental independence as if you owned your own home, there are some financial advantages of this arrangement, especially in subsidized housing environments. Nonetheless there are still a number of items you must consider while determining whether or not this environment is best for you.

This environment, similar to that of home ownership, requires a great level of independence. In this case, you not only have your living unit to take into consideration, but the common areas of the building and building grounds as well. If you need to make modifications to accommodate your disability you are entitled to do so with the knowledge and permission of the owner. If the housing is privately owned, you, the tenant, must pay for any modifications to either the common areas of the complex or your private quarters. If, on the otherhand, it is a federally funded housing project or Section 8 property, the landlord will have the responsibility to pay for the modifications.

It is also very important to consider the location of the building. Consider not only the convenience, but also the safety. Often times, although certainly not always, low-income or subsidized housing units are not located in the safest areas. If you chose to pursue this type of housing, be absolutely certain your building, as well as your living unit are secure. Consider whether or not the lobby is locked at all times, and whether or not there is a security camera or intercom system in place. Does your apartment unit have properly working locks or dead bolts and security chains? Do the windows lock properly? Is the area well lit? Is the building easily accessible by police and or emergency crews?

Speaking in terms of convenience, there are several more factors to take into consideration. When determining the best location, consider the proximity to shopping, your doctor's office, friends and family, etc. If you do not drive, you must also consider the availability of transportation. For example, are you located near a bus line? You must also keep in mind that pay-per-ride transportation services will not cross county lines, therefore make certain you choose a location within the county of your doctor and/or therapist.

If you feel this environment is indeed most appropriate, make certain you know and understand your rights. You can visit Nolo's Legal Encyclopedia: Disabled Renters' Housing Rights to learn more about your rights as a disabled tenant or prospective tenant. Nolo's Legal Encyclopedia also offers Every Tenants Legal Guide which explains how you can make certain that the rental process goes as smoothly as possible.

Make certain you are fully aware of all available options and as prepared as possible before deciding on a location or living environment. To continue your research into rental housing, visit Housing and Urban Development: Information for Disabled Persons. You can also visit your local Center for Independent Living (CIL), at which a housing specialist will assess your situation and then explain the options available to you. To find a CIL in your area, visit our State Centers for Independent Living resource list.

Both home ownership and apartment rental is available to the most independent of individuals. Often times, you will have had extensive independent living experience which allows you to recognize your needs and capabilities. This, in turn, allows you to make competent decisions regarding the best living environment for you.

The following environments, on the other hand, are typically not for those capable of fulfilling their daily living needs. Often times, families and/or guardians seek out the following facilities for their loved one with a disability. This portion of the guide is intended to assist families and guardians of individuals with disabilities in finding an environment that will provide a proper level of care for that individual with a disability. Keep in mind that it is important to include your loved one throughout the search process. Make certain you understand his/her desires. If you currently care for an individual with a disability, the following may help you and your loved one determine the most appropriate environment.

Supported/Assistive Living

A third, relatively independent living environment can be found in assisted living or supported living facilities. These facilities are for those individuals that need assistance with daily living activities but still wish to live as independently as possible. Although some assistance is needed, constant care is not required. You or your loved one should be generally capable of caring for themselves, with the exception of minor daily activities such as meal preparation, bathing, dressing, etc.

You may want to ask the following questions to determine if this living environment is the most appropriate:

Assistive Care can generally be categorized into one of the following for younger individuals with disabilities. (Source: AssistedLivingFacilities.org):

  • Clinical residential treatment programs - offers a sense of community that focuses on self-esteem, develop relationships and improve skills. Professional treatment is on-premises.
  • Group residential communities - "group homes," designed in a family setting. It too enhances self-esteem, build skills, develop relationships, and learn to manage symptoms. Clinical treatment is optional and occurs off campus.
  • Apartment-based communities - residents have individual or shared apartments to choose. They participate in therapeutic activities, supportive relationships and treatment.
  • Ranch or Farm-based and work-based residential programs - residents are responsible to participate in daily work programs. It is the key to their growth and recovery. Some offer work opportunities that build marketable skills.
  • To locate any of the above living environments, visit our Community Living (Group Homes/Supported Living) resource directory.

    Supported Living can be very costly and may not be covered under Insurance plans or Medicaid. The average cost can begin at $2500-$3000 per month and will increase with the addition of services and amenities. To find out whether or not your state offers payment assistance through either Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income call the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in your state. You can also contact your local human services office.

    If you indeed feel this environment is best for your loved one, it is extremely important you take great care and consideration when choosing a facility. Involve your loved one throughout the decision-making process as much as possible. It is especially important to take your loved one's interests into consideration, as many facilities will offer specialized programs. Tour the facilities several times at different points throughout the day so that you can get a clear picture of the environment. Throughout your research take special note of the following:

    As you can see, there are very many factors to take into consideration. You want to make certain that the facility offers a stimulating, comforting environment, one that your loved one will be happy to call home. Your primary focus should be to find an environment that will best complement your loved one's personality and capabilities.

    The preceding guide was derived from the following sources:

    Nursing Home Info
    Assisted Living Info
    Nolo Law for All
    U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

    If you have questions or ideas, information and solutions that you would like to share with us, contact us by e-mail at: horizons@new-horizons.org or to use our NHU E-Mail Form or NHU Community Forum, click the links below.

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