The Housing Dilemma for Adults with Autism - Part 2
There is a crisis in the U.S. among adults with autism who are ready to leave home and find housing within their community. These vulnerable individuals are being left behind by able-bodied generations who have been given priority access to homes because of their ability to work and earn higher incomes. In contrast, those on the autistic spectrum depend heavily on caregivers (often their parents) for personal needs. This is due solely to neurological differences that cause severe impairments in their life skills or physical mobility. And yet, they have much to offer.
This crisis continues to widen the gap between need and availability for disabled populations. This gap must be addressed unless we are comfortable allowing vulnerable people to either struggle on their own or be institutionalized due to overcrowding at medical facilities. Worst case scenario is that some of these individuals may even end up on the street because all other avenues have been exhausted.
For many adults with autism, holding down a job is out of their reach. They will still need to pay rent, however, and live independently on a budget. For this, they would need a supplementary income from an outside source such as SSI or a welfare program. The problem lies in the fact that while SSI might be available, it's not always enough. And the eligibility criteria limits those who may have earning potential but don't meet 100% of the requirements. For those who do qualify, there often isn't enough money coming out of SSI benefits alone.
When someone requires supervision, it makes it difficult for them to live independently without some sort of support system. This leaves many eligible individuals either homeless or under-employed and unable to afford housing. And the voices of those living with autism often go unheard.
There are over 5.5 million adults on the autism spectrum in the U.S., and yet fewer than 10% live in their own homes without caregiving assistance. This is most likely because they can't afford it. For those caring for people who have grown up with disabilities such as autism, need to find housing options sooner rather than later. Otherwise, everything could come crashing down around them, leaving the person they care for literally out in the cold. Still, just any housing option cannot solve this problem. This situation needs to be addressed from many different angles at once if we want our children to have the opportunity to secure safe and sustainable long-term housing.
The search for affordable housing may seem impossible for disabled individuals, especially those with autism. If they manage to get their name on one of the many waiting lists, there are often no apartments nearby or that are accessible and affordable. This housing shortage is an epidemic in disability communities. Not only do these shortages disproportionately affect adults who need proximity to family support systems, they need a relatively lower price point than other groups.
It’s time for private-sector organizations to take the initiative to help create housing opportunities for impoverished and vulnerable populations. The current models are outdated. Some don't include communal environments or the ability to remain independent in their designs. Some may support communal living, while others might offer varying levels of independent living options but not the opportunity of being part of a larger group. Both fail to incorporate these critical aspects into one program, which negatively impacts people looking for a sense of belonging.
At Neuro Diverse Living, our mission is to offer adults with autism or other intellectual developmental disabilities the opportunity to live as independently as possible by providing safe and secure neuro-inclusive cohousing communities with built-in amenities, meaningful employment opportunities, and natural support systems. Our homes give parents and aging caregivers peace of mind that they will never have to worry about their children being alone or isolated once they are gone — a situation in which everyone wins.