By Tim Dolan, Inclusive Housing Coalition
I recently attended a conference where one of the panelists shared his experience living independently with a disability. During the discussion, he was asked what he would say to other people seeking to live independently. “To live their best life,” he said. It occurred to me that’s what we all want for our loved ones, our friends, for everyone.
As a parent of a teenage son with autism spectrum disorder, I have concerns about his inclusion into society. A lot of my concerns have to do with housing. I know that his chances to thrive improve immensely if he lives in an independent, supportive and neuro-inclusive living environment. I also believe adults with I/DD would find increased employment opportunities as inclusive housing increases and businesses continue to recognize the diverse benefits neuro-divergent employees bring to the workplace.
A few years ago some colleagues and I took on the professional and yet very personal challenge to increase housing for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities who could live independently. We believed there was a need for housing that’s cognitively-accessible and affordable to adults with neuro-divergences and intellectual and developmental disabilities.
According to data supplied by Neuroinclusive Housing Solutions, more than 127,000 people in Colorado live with an intellectual and developmental disability. More than 73% of whom live with family or a caregiver and those caregivers are aging. In fact, at least 20,000 adults with I/DD in Colorado live with a caregiver over the age of sixty. Many of those individuals can and would prefer to live independently, just like their neuro-typical community members. The most common barriers include lack of access and affordability. The possibility of displacement and even homelessness looms unless the issue is confronted.
Additional neuro-inclusive housing units like those being developed in Broomfield and Castle Rock will be available in the next couple years via new housing developments. As exciting as these are, each new development only makes a dent in the need. Construction of new neuro-inclusive units must be accelerated, just like with all other forms of affordable housing.
This issue has received a lot of media attention in recent years with millions spent in stimulus funding. Newly enacted state initiatives are dedicated to bringing more funding to affordable housing and addressing homelessness. All of which align with housing solutions for the I/DD community.
I believe the solution for increased neuro-inclusive housing lies in the same place as solutions for affordable neuro-typical housing. The key is to ensure coordination among the neuro-inclusive community, its service providers and the affordable housing development community.
This is the role of the Inclusive Housing Coalition. By dedicating our efforts to bridging the knowledge gaps and providing a collective voice for neuro-inclusive housing, the IHC will help increase appropriate, inclusive, neuro-inclusive housing choices in Colorado.