The Hidden Housing Crisis…An Excerpt


GoogleImages.comThe consequences of the high cost of housing for people with disabilities are both obvious and hidden. The visible face of the housing crisis affecting people with disabilities is homelessness. A twenty-five city homelessness survey conducted in 2008 by the U.S. Conference of Mayors found that people with mental illnesses represented 26 percent of the homeless population, 13 percent were people with physical disabilities, and 13 percent were veterans.1 While these statistics are shocking, a crisis of much larger magnitude remains hidden within institutions where tens of thousands of people with disabilities live, simply because they cannot afford decent housing in the community. Over 420,000 people under the age of 65 live in nursing homes, many of them Introduced on Priced Out in 2008 2 residing there unnecessarily because of the lack of community-based housing.2 Hundreds of thousands of other people with disabilities, including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental illnesses, and physical disabilities, live in group quarters, such as Intermediate Care Facilities for the Mentally Retarded (ICFs/MR), mental hospitals, community residences, halfway houses, shelters, transitional living facilities, and board and care homes. In addition to recipients of SSI, the high cost of rental housing affects the growing numbers of people receiving Social Security Disability or Veterans Administration (VA) benefits. Tragically, a significant percentage of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will rely on VA disability payments as their sole source of support. Many of these brave Americans will languish in institutions because they too are priced out of the rental housing market. Community Integrated on at Risk of Failure The 1999 Supreme Court decision in Olmstead v. L.C. offered real, meaningful hope of community living to people with disabilities improperly isolated in institutional settings. The court ruled that unjustifi ed segregation of individuals with disabilities in institutions is a form of segregation that may violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In the years since the decision, Congress, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and state Medicaid agencies have acted on the promise of integration expressed in Olmstead through such initiatives as Home and Community-Based Waivers, the “Money Follows the Person” program, self-directed care options, and other approaches assuring that people with disabilities can receive the supports they need for independent living in the community, with their families and friends, near to jobs, transportation, and schools. As the nation turns its attention to national health care reform, the “hidden” housing crisis affecting people with disabilities is becoming more visible. Policy makers must now confront the high cost of unnecessary institutionalization and long-term care “placements,” which in most instances are a default to the lack of affordable housing and more cost-effective community supports. Olmstead-related lawsuits are also shedding new light on troubling state policies that provide significant financial support to keep people with disabilities in restrictive Adult Care Homes, as opposed to integrated housing in the community. TAC estimates that nationally, more than $1 billion each year is spent on state SSI supplements for people living in segregated congregate care facilities – money that could and should be spent on integrated rental housing in the community.(page 1)


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