Taking the Plunge into Housing & Community Solutions for Adults with Autism

April 19, 2023

By Denise D. Resnik, Founder & President/CEO

I remember my early days of learning how to dive from the big board. I practiced my form from the safety of the side of the pool. When I finally braved those reluctant steps to the diving board’s edge, I looked over to the lifeguard—who gave me the nod I needed—and then I dove in!

Before leaping into the water from such heights—or tackling anything new and challenging—it’s essential to surround ourselves with those who teach, train and spot us. We benefit from seeking out those with experience—including both success and failure—whom we trust to hold our hand when leaping into the “deep end.” This is especially important for those of us who have taken, or are considering taking, a dive into housing and community development for adults with autism and/or intellectual/developmental disabilities (A/I/DD).

We thank the dozens of Arizona leaders and stakeholders for joining and “spotting” us in producing the first-ever study to comprehensively address housing needs and preferences of adults living with A/I/DD and informing our collective next steps.

The 2022 Greater Phoenix Housing Market Analysis, conducted by the First Place Global Leadership Institute Make Waves Center for Community Development, was carefully planned and executed. We started by educating self-advocates and their families on their potential options as described in the guiding narrative set forth in First Place’s 2020 A Place in the World study. Then we collected market data through surveys offered in English, Spanish and plain language to identify barriers and explored how the public, private, nonprofit and philanthropic sectors can collaborate to respond to market demand. 

“Meeting the housing needs of people with A/I/DD will result in a healthier and more stable population, which can significantly reduce Medicaid costs, increase quality of life, and prevent involuntary displacement and homelessness,” says Maureen Casey, director of the Colonel Harland Sanders Center for Applied Research and The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation Center for Public Policy at the Institute.

Without options, members of the neurodiverse population lives with family members until a crisis forces rushed decisions, often with traumatic consequences for the individual and their family—and costly consequences for our state. Lack of housing options too often prevents them from moving beyond their family home as integrated, contributing members of society with the support of those who know them best. As with the neurotypical population, they seek homes that are safe, affordable, comfortable and conveniently located with proximity to necessities and interests. They, too, want “community.”

Developing homes and community for adults with A/I/DD must take into consideration varying levels of support, navigation and benefits. Market demand data, housing models that enable us to learn from lived experiences, and outcome and impact analyses provide insights into what members of this population need and want—and enable the design of a blueprint offering more realistic options.

This is our moment to stand for and with the underrepresented, underserved and underestimated through data, proof points and solutions—and together build more housing and community options for the special populations we serve.

Home isn’t simply comprised four walls. It dwells among people, places and moments, offering comfort and security, building strength and celebrating life’s successes. Home and community “spot” us through life as they prepare us for what’s next.

After you dive into this compelling report, we invite you to complete this brief questionnaire to let us know how you would like to get involved in spreading the word.

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