Getting Started with Finding Housing

Exploring housing and support options can be an intimidating endeavor. Our hope is that the Autism Housing Network (AHN) will not just demystify, but inspire and excite your journey in discovering which options would best meet the needs of you or someone you love.

Here are a few tips on how you can use the AHN to meet your housing goals.

1. Learn About Emerging and Existing Housing Models

If you are unsure of the benefits and considerations of the different housing and service delivery models, we suggest that you view the Housing and Support Learning Series, a video series led by AHN Director, Desiree Kameka Galloway. Once you have an idea about the type of options you are looking for, use the filters in the AHN Housing Directory to narrow down examples of supportive housing options that meet your lifestyle preference, location, support needs, etc. As you browse, you will notice that few, if any, of the residences you find are available. We suggest you explore options near you and across the country to get a sense of your preferences while understanding there is very limited availability and your state may not support all options. While this is the unfortunate reality, it is also the reason that many are taking housing into their own hands and building the futures they seek.

2. Start Your Person-Centered Planning Process

Instead of starting one’s journey looking for a “placement,” we suggest engaging in a process that starts with a person’s preferences, what makes them feel connected with their community, what makes them smile, and assessing their natural support system. This process is called person-centered planning and is the key to building a future based on the aspirations and supports of a specific individual.

Use the AHN Resource Directory filter to find easy-to-understand person-centered planning resources to guide you through this approach along with examples, tools, visuals, and steps to help walk you through this important process. Some professionals have become certified person-centered planning facilitators in a variety of methods (such as PATH or MAPS) and can be hired to help you in the process. Person-centered planning should be led as much as possible by the individual, and their communication and affirmation should be at the center of the process. If you use or intend to use a Home and Community-Based waiver in the future, use the Person-Centered Planning HCBS Final Rule Requirements document to make sure your person-centered planning process and plan incorporate the elements that are required by federal regulations to access publicly-funded waiver supports.

3. It’s Never Too Early To Begin Preparing for Transition

Transitioning from living in one’s family home to one’s own home is exciting but can be overwhelming. Explore some of the transition resources in the AHN Resource Directory to help become better prepared for this transition. Don’t forget to check out the person-centered planning resources page and the state-specific resource checklist for more information about how to access publicly funded programs.

Additionally, the costs of being an adult will only continue to rise. This helpful webinar from the ABLE National Resource Center will describe some of the tools you can use to save for the future. It is essential that you start saving and have a financial plan today! Check out this alliance of special needs financial planners and lawyers that can help ensure that you have essential documents in place to prevent the loss of public benefits or becoming a ward of the state if family caregivers can no longer provide support: Letter of Intent, Parents benefits funneling into a special needs trust and/or ABLE account, Supported Decision Making and/or guardianship, etc. Learn more by using the ‘Preparing for the Future’ filter on the AHN Resource Directory.

4. Get on Waitlists Today for the Supports You’ll Need Tomorrow

The transition from high school to adulthood isn’t usually a smooth one. It takes thoughtful consideration, organization, and planning. For example, obtaining publicly funded supports and affordable housing often involves being placed on a waitlist, which can delay you or your loved one from accessing much-needed resources for months and even years.

How can you ease this process? Make sure to get familiar with your state’s I/DD agency and the eligibility requirements for the different waivers in your state. It is important to consider the differences in housing control and stability of different service delivery models. There are many questions to consider, such as: Is this a provider-owned and controlled or consumer-owned and controlled setting? What is the difference between living in a family host home or in a shared living arrangement? Wait lists are common for accessing publicly funded supports, therefore applying for supports well before you need them is essential.

If you live on a low fixed income and are planning on renting your own place, you may be eligible for a permanent rental subsidy or a unit in an affordable housing community. Most states have waiting lists or short, specific time periods when you can apply for housing assistance. Your local Public Housing Agency can help you access necessary information and explain the affordable housing options available in your community. Use the AHN Housing Directory to explore supportive housing communities that were developed to be affordable or with built-in support systems. These communities help individuals with A/I/DD, who may not qualify or have access to a waiver, live with enough support, yet as independently as possible.

5. Build Your Support System

Isolation, abuse and mate-crime are major concerns in adulthood and many adults with A/I/DD already report feeling lonely. Building relationships outside of the family takes time and effort, but is the greatest protection against isolation and abuse when family caregivers are no longer available. This video offers some tips and reasons why investing time in building one’s natural support system is so critical. 


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