This Post was originally posted on SteppingStoneCommunities.org on November 15, 2018
I’m not much of a crier. But when I tell our story, it is hard to hold back the tears. The problem is overwhelming. Literally, thousands of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are facing an uncertain future – on in which they will find themselves completely alone.
Our story? In Colorado alone, over 10,000 adults with disabilities are living with family caretakers who are over 60 years old. Our local communities are simply not ready for this tsunami of need that is heading our way.
Thanks to medical advancements, people with disabilities are living longer… and that is good news. But what happens when their families are no longer there to care for them?
The current options are not pretty. Institutional settings are not appropriate for these adults. Even host homes (think: “adult foster care”) are too restrictive for many. And worse, these government options are not available to most – there is a waiting list in the thousands for funding for residential assistance.
The most recent Colorado Legislature identified as many as 2,800 individuals who need housing assistance immediately. The response: funding for 300 people. While this is better than nothing, it clearly is not going to put a dent in the enormous need.
Complicating the situation is today’s housing market. Even people without disabilities are struggling to afford apartments in today’s market. Average rent is $1400 for a one-bedroom apartment. So what are the chances for someone who must live on a $750 disability check?
Living in an “affordable” apartment complex with a roommate just does not provide the protection they need. Even the highest functioning of adults with IDD are vulnerable to exploitation of all kinds. Someone has to be loving and watching and caring.
For all of these reasons and more, it is vital that we build the 60-unit apartment building and hopefully more buildings like it going forward. These buildings will be homes – a place to belong. Sharing the building with non-disabled adults and together managing their own place – this will truly be a safe and nurturing community.
I have probably told this story several hundred times – to friends, family, large groups and the cashier at the grocery store. Some people’s eyes glaze over – but the vast majority here, learn and open their hearts.
As many times as I have told this story, I still get a lump in my throat and then come to tears – tears of love and of gratitude for everyone who is supporting this endeavor and who will join in our efforts over the next weeks and years.