The Key to Community Integration and Independence for People with Developmental Disabilities
All of us face housing difficulties at one time or another. And we know that when our housing doesn’t work, nothing works. Like everyone else, people with developmental disabilities prefer to live in the housing and the community of their choice. That’s why President Obama declared this the Year of Community Living. Yet people with disabilities face uniquely daunting challenges finding and retaining affordable, accessible, quality housing in the Bay Area’s high-cost housing market.
WBHC’s Housing Services program enables people to overcome those daunting challenges – to achieve and maintain independence, housing stability, and community integration – whether they are transitioning from an institutional setting; at risk of placement in a shelter during an abusive, discriminatory, or other crisis situation; or merely struggling with an unaffordable, inaccessible, unsafe or otherwise substandard housing situation.
Our intensive housing case management empowers people with disabilities to live as independently as possible, in the least restrictive setting, in homes and communities of their own choosing. Intensive housing case management enables people to find and retain quality housing. Working with individuals, family members, and case managers, WBHC designs a customized package of housing-related services integrated into each client’s Individual Program Plan – a person-centered housing plan. Our housing services include Housing Options Identification, Fiscal Agent, Tenant Coordinator, Housing Retention Services, and Housing Advocacy, each described more fully below.
Marcus as he moves his belongings from an SRO to his new appartment
Housing Options Identifier
WBHC’s intensive Housing Search Service transcends the typical “information and referral” approach. The process begins with a comprehensive housing needs assessment in close cooperation with the client, their case manager, and family members, resulting in a person-centered Housing Plan integrated into each client’s Individual Program Plan. WBHC acts as a liaison between the client, their case managers, and landlords, property managers, housing departments, and other housing resources. WBHC’s working partnerships with both for-profit and nonprofit landlords and property managers throughout San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin counties speeds the search for suitable housing. The housing search and final selection are driven by the client’s identified needs, typically prioritizing affordability; accessibility; safety of the home, building, and neighborhood; and proximity to family, friends, work, day program, services and other amenities. Move-In, Fiscal Agency, and Housing Retention Services ensure that clients truly thrive and achieve independence in their new community based-housing.
Devin Pennix and Robert Gray during Robert's move-in
Fiscal Agent Services
WBHC provides Fiscal Agent Services, similar to “Rent Payee” Services, in order to ensure that clients avoid late rent payments that can lead to housing instability or loss of housing. WBHC works with the client and the client’s case manager to analyze budgetary constraints and determine the portion of the client’s monthly SSI payments available for rent. In some cases, clients may be eligible for a housing subsidy through WBHC when necessary to avoid severe rent burden and avoid institutionalization or crisis.
Kevin McNeil, a participant in our fiscal agent program
Tenant Coordinator Services
WBHC negotiates and signs or co-signs leases on behalf of clients. From there, WBHC’s Tenant Coordinators act as a liaison between the client and the landlord or property manager. The Tenant Coordinator may assist with some or all of the following: moving, storage, establishing utility services, unit modifications and other reasonable accommodations, house rules, unit maintenance, relations with neighboring tenants, and resolution of misunderstandings or disputes.
Stephanie Hill, recipient of tenant coordinator services
Housing Retention Services
Many of our clients benefit from more intensive Housing Retention Services in order to continue to live independently in community-based housing. In addition to the Tenant Coordinator Services described above, Housing Retention Services may include Ongoing Waitlist Management, Unit Habitability Checks, Rent Subsidy Reduction Planning, and Tenant Wellness Checks. These services have proven to be the critical factor to ensure that clients stabilize and thrive in their new home. Housing Retention also plays a key role in preserving relationships with landlords and property managers as we work with our Regional Center partners in their effort to separate housing and services.
Joanna Espinoza, a participant in the housing retention program
WBHC advocates with local Housing Authorities, housing and community development departments, and other policy and decision-making bodies on behalf of the housing needs of people with developmental disabilities. WBHC is coordinating input into the formation of the 2009-2014 Housing Elements for all jurisdictions in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin Counties in an effort to ensure that the Housing Elements the level and specificity of unmet housing needs for this population. WBHC participates in local housing advocacy groups, such as the Council of Community Housing Organizations in San Francisco; the San Mateo Housing Leadership Council, and the Marin Housing Action Initiative, as well as regional advocacy groups such as the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California and Housing CA.
Learning to Swim -- Is a documentary produced by APOLLO'STUDIO'S telling a story of the need for affordable housing options for people with developmental disabilities. This film tells the story of Stephanie, a developmentally disabled woman who was placed in a state hospital after her parents passed away. Stephanie is now living independently and thriving in the community.