The catalyst for creating Opengate came from concerned parents and their developmentally disabled adults, wondering what would happen to their children when they aged. The question “who would take care of my son or daughter when I can’t?” encouraged this group to develop our facility in 1969 after the scandalous exposure of warehousing individuals at Willowbrook Schools.
Entering another era, these concerns are finding their way back into the forefront for families with disabled members. Adults with disabilities are encouraged to become a part of the community and independent living is promoted, but is it always feasible? Although able to cope with their challenges and special needs, they have the added stress of financially surviving in a world which has little to offer those living well below the poverty line.
A 2014 study, Priced Out in 2014, addresses the growing issue of “the severe housing affordability problems experienced by people with disabilities.” Properties and rents are rising across the nation leading to a tremendous gap for individuals who subsist on Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This study confirms the affordability gap for adults living with disabilities.
Understanding the Affordability Gap
According to HUD’s Worst Case Needs report to Congress:
Nearly 700,000 people with disabilities live in “Non-institutional Group Quarters,” which includes homeless shelters, group homes, and other congregate facilities
Approximately 40,000 people with mental illness reside in state mental health institutions
Over 200,000 non-elderly people with disabilities reside in nursing homes
Over 863,000 people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities live with caregivers over 60 years old.
Since the 1980’s federal funding and subsidies for housing assistance to adults with disabilities has shown little to no growth, but the size of the population in need has shown a significant increase. Suitable housing for this growing population has reached a point of emergency.
The report goes on to say, “Prioritizing the housing needs of people with disabilities who are institutionalized or chronically homeless is not only a requirement of the ADA, it is also the most cost-effective strategy for states and the federal government.”
In the state of New York 120% of a person’s SSI is needed for housing, leaving nothing for food, clothing, transportation and other needs. This is unacceptable in a nation considered wealthy.
Opengate, and programs like ours, are facing other challenges with changes in state and federal legislation, funding and policies. We hold the future of our consumers in our hands, providing housing and programs to enhance their daily lives and assist them to reach their full potential. It’s clear that our lawmakers must lift caps and provide more to the disabled population for them to be true members of the community.
To learn more about Priced Out in 2104, and read the complete report, please refer to the website, Technical Assistance Collaborative (TAC TacInc.Org). There are viable solutions offered within the report that would alleviate the burden put on adults with disabilities and their families.
Opengate is a leader in its field and is recognized by New York State as one of only seven like agencies among thousands that have earned a prestigious Compass designation.