Notes from May 6, 2014:
Guest Speakers Jan Stokley, Housing Choices Coalition, and Gabriel Rogin, Area Board 5
"Facing the Housing Dilemma" Series in SF
Meeting was held at the Arc of San Francisco, 6:15-8:15pm
A. Comments by parents:
The meeting was attended by a large group of parents of developmentally disabled adults, most of whom are now in their 20s. The parents were seeking further information about supported housing options, mainly in or near San Francisco. Many parents voiced a strong preference for a coherent, integrated community with plentiful social contact and robust programming and supervision.
Many of the adult children had intensive needs and require 24/7 care. Many have extensive community connections in SF and need placements near the City. Many parents feel the need for a well-managed sustainable housing solution that will endure after the parents die or can no longer care for the child. All lamented the dearth of options in SF, and one parent commented that it’s not even possible for an adult with autism, who has minimal income, to get on a low-income housing waiting list, as the income for an ASD adult is too low for eligibility.
B. Future direction for group:
Four people volunteered to serve on the steering committee for the group’s activities after June 2014. There is interest in continuing the group and working together on various issues relating to DD housing in SF.
There will be meetings again on June 3 and July 1. In June we may hear from parents who have made the housing transition for their children, and in July we may have a rep from the Mayor’s Office of Housing.
Jill stated that Autism Society SF Bay Area may cosponsor a one-day conference in October called, “A Place for Us,” all about creative housing solutions for adults with DD. She will circulate info as it develops.
C. First presenter: Jan Stokley, executive director, Housing Choices Coalition, which is based in Santa Clara County.
Without affordable housing options, many adults with autism or developmental disabilities simply cannot leave the family home. Most adults with disabling ASD have very low incomes, often limited to their social security benefits. With the increasingly high cost of housing, it has become virtually impossible to find safe, decent housing they can afford. HCC's mission is to enhance the lives of people with intellectual disabilities by creating quality, affordable housing options.
1. About HCC
• HCC was started by parents in Santa Clara County in 1995 to create alternatives to the family home or Residential Care Facilities (aka “Group Homes”).
• It is funded by SARC to help consumers gain access to affordable housing.
• HCC creates affordable housing opportunities--negotiates “set-asides” with affordable housing developers so lowest-cost units are targeted to people with DD.
• HCC also helps people apply for other affordable housing.
• Has moved more than 1,000 people with DD into affordable housing.
• HCC focuses on inclusive and affordable options in integrated settings, they do not develop group homes, and they don’t serve other disabilities aside developmental disabilities.
• HCC counsels 1500-2000 people per year about how to get into affordable housing., places about 100 per year into housing.
• HCC also maintains stability of the housing, advocates with local govt and affordable housing developers to set aside units for DDs.
• The Regional Center will sign an MOU with the developer and HCC to, for example, commit 12 units to DD, then HCC would commit to administer the waitlist and also have an onsite presence.
2. What are Sources for Rental Subsidies?
People with DDs are usually in the “extremely low income” category, people who earn 30% or less of the area median income. Median income for a family of four in Santa Clara County is $100k. Adults with DD usually rely on SSI, with income of 856 to 1000 a month, for a maximum of $12,000 per year. They are in the lowest of the “extremely low income” category, making about 12% of area median income.
(1) Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8). If you are low-income and have a voucher from the Housing Authority, you pay only 30% of household income for rent. You can apply for any apartment that will accept the voucher.
If accepted, you would pay one-third of your monthly income (often about 270 dollars), while the Housing Authority would pay the balance of the rent to the landlord (which could be anywhere from about $800 to $2k a month). This is a powerful subsidy which provides choice and community-based options, but waitlists for vouchers are closed.
Even when you get a voucher, there are fewer and fewer landlords willing to deal with the program—it’s extra work for them, and they may not receive full market rate rent. In this market, landlords have little incentive to take vouchers. HCC sometimes works for months to find housing for people who have succeeded in obtaining vouchers. On one hand, it provides choice and rent is only 30% of income... but as a practical matter, it’s not working great.
(2) Properties with Project-Based Housing Vouchers (PBVs). Some properties have been awarded by the local Housing Authority PBVs for all or some of their units. Like the Housing Choice Voucher, rent equals 30% of the actual household income. Very few PBVs, however, are currently available, or available to developmentally disabled adults. Housing Authorities do have discretion to create more PBV projects in their areas.
(3) Set-aside “Affordable” Units. In certain properties, rent is artificially fixed to be “affordable” to a household earning a specific percentage of the Area Median Income. For example, at Fourth Street Apartments, rent is “affordable” to people at 25% of Santa Clara County Area Median Income:
1 br/1 ba: $465
2 br/1 ba: $556
3 br/2 ba: $639
HCC’s set-aside units are priced at 15, 20 or 25% of area (Santa Clara) median income.
A parent who lives in SF noted that her ASD son does not make enough money to qualify for affordable housing, or even get on a waitlist! The income levels are set too high for those who cannot make a living.
3. Waitlists for Affordable Units
• HCC maintains the wait lists for 154 affordable rental apartments set aside for people with developmental disabilities in 9 affordable rental properties, with 87 more “set-aside” apartments under development at five additional properties. Benefits of this model:
• A “sheltered” wait list just for DD adults, leading to an integrated housing option. Since discrimination against DD adults is very real, having a sheltered waitlist administered by HCC is a huge advantage.
• No need for a Section 8 voucher.
• ILS or SLS is chosen by individual—support service is independent of housing choice and can change as needed without affecting housing.
• Near public transit, shopping and services; “Green” building standards; professionally managed properties.
• HCC housing is open to anyone regardless of the severity of the disability. Every person has ability to live in the housing of their choice, with needed supports. Some have multiple staff. Some have ILS. Really runs the whole range.. The housing is not designed according to severity.
• Loneliness or isolation in apartments can be a problem. We have onsite staff at partner properties, trying to build a community in the apartment.
• Advice: to obtain an affordable unit, plan several years ahead. Assess housing and support needs well in advance of urgency. Apply for appropriate wait lists. Keep your contact info current. Call property managers regularly to ask about wait list status. Be persistent but not annoying. Monitor new properties or properties that re-open wait lists. Be prepared for long wait followed by short turn-around time for actual housing application. There is not a centralized waitlist, the affordable properties each hold their own waitlists.
• GGRC has vendorized West Bay Housing to help with waitlist applications and management. West Bay Housing maintains current information on each property’s rent and income guidelines and whether the wait list is open or closed.
• In your IPP, ask your social worker to authorize a purchase of service to do assessment of housing options and undertake a housing search. The IPP can say, “John’s goal is to live in community housing at an affordable rent in his community with SLS services. Therefore WBH will be contracted to undertake a housing search for John.”
• Evaluate multiple options for ILS or SLS and have support plan in place in advance of housing availability.
• Be ready to respond immediately when called for a vacancy with updated application, recent SSI award letter, 3 months paycheck stubs, 6 months bank statements, cashier’s check or money order to pay for background check.
4. Housing Co-ops
• An independent living alternative to a group home, not licensed
• 4 or 5 people sare a single-family home, no live-in staff.
• Residents have private bedroom and share common space.
• Residents adopt house rules, meet regularly to discuss issues, shared chores and housekeeping; social component
• Practice for transition to living on their own in ILS.
• Residents choose their own ILS agency. Can be changed over time.
• 20 hours per week of on-site management and program support by HCC.
• The co-op home in Santa Clara run by HCC is owned by Hope Services, leased to HCC.
• Model could work for people with more involved disabilities, with SLS -- some parents are already working to set these up.
5. Policy advocacy
• We have a broken system that fails to address actual need. Demand for affordable housing for people with DD greatly outstrips supply-- we have a broken system. And demand is skyrocketing.
• Local Plans and Mayor’s Office on Housing. SF has a Housing Element in its General Plan and an obligation to meet its regional fair share of the affordable housing need. Under SB 812, the Housing Element must quantify and address the specific housing needs of people with DD. What does SF’s Housing Element state? What projects are in the works that address the need?
SF’s Housing Element last updated 2009—what is the schedule for the next Housing Element? Know the timeline for next housing element they are revised every 5-7 years. Educate everyone in city government about what they need to do for population that’s most vulnerable and most underserved.
--Current revitalization of City public housing stock, a massive redevelopment, Project HOPE, involving 1210 units with a mix of market rate and affordable units. Get a place at the table. Ask for 10% of the units or leftover units. The Mayor has made affordable housing a platform issue.
--SF Developer Impact Fees — a housing fund administered by Mayor’s office. Could release Request for Proposals specifically for DD housing.
--Home and community devt block grant dollars specifically to be used for affordable housing. Must affirmatively further fair housing.
--In Ms. Stokley’s opinion, each county needs a Task Force to create recommendations for viable DD community living options.
• Housing Choice Vouchers: Section 8 wait list is closed at SF Housing Authority.
--Advocate for Section 8 Preference for DD-- Housing Authority has policy discretion to provide preferential wait list treatment for Section 8 vouchers— SF’s HA has a preference for homeless and disabled, but many people with DD are not homeless.
--Advocate for Project-based vouchers for DD. HA has the authority to competitively award Project Based Vouchers to units specifically set aside for people with DD, or at least more points awarded for serving a special needs population.
—What is HA’s history of using this strategy and how can they be induced to try it?
• State-level advocacy
--HUD 811. Advocate for CHFA to submit a program design for 811 funding that better aligns with the needs of people with DD in SF (most of whom are not “exiting institutions”). Statewide-- Calif housing finance authority, how to respond to fed 811 funds. Project-based vouchers where not more than 25% of people have a disability. Subsidize inclusive community housing. Apply for federal funds... not just for exiting institutions. Mismatch between where people are actually living.
--Community Placement Plan funds: CPP dollars are currently only available for Developmental Center exits--but this is NOT where the greatest need is. Advocate for DDS to make CPP dollars available for housing people with DD who are not exiting DCs. One proposal is for “operating savings” from closing DCs ($400,000 annually/resident) be committed to affordable housing and other community services.
--Advocate for CA Housing and Jobs Act SB 391 on condition of set-asides for people with DD.
D. Second presenter: Gabriel Rogin, executive director, Area Board 5.
The Mission of Area Board 5 of the State Council on Developmental Disabilities is to ensure that persons with developmental disabilities and their families have the same rights and opportunities as the general population. These include the right to live and be served in the least restrictive environment. Mr. Rogin focused on the role of the Regional Centers and the parents' role in the IPP (Individual Program Plan) process.
1. IPP process
Mr Rogin said that AB5 does advocacy work in addition to monitoring GGRC and RCEB, AB5 gets many calls from families about RC actions or policy that are not addressing needs, both individually and systemically.
• He is a big fan of the Regional Centers, but knows the system is broken in a lot of ways. The system is supposed to be person-centered with services customized around individual needs. But in reality, many plans are not individualized, we place DD adults in existing programs that may or may not be most tailored to their specific needs. He has seen a lot of transition programs where the adults are basically sitting in a day program doing nothing. Though there are some really good providers out there, many are akin to babysitting.
• For residential, there are very few options. You are basically choosing from a few group homes, assuming there are openings available. It’s not an individualized process.
• In an IPP meeting, know in advance what your vision is for your adult child. Focus on what is most important and don’t sweat the small stuff. Peers, health, safety, location, activities? What are you not willing to sacrifice? What are the must-haves, so when you go to your IPP meetings, that goal is driving the process. Most people don’t do that, and many get hung up on the little things--know your bigger vision. Be very clear with your ask.
• There is tremendous pressure on GGRC staff and they have had huge turnover, they are underpaid, the caseloads are too high. It’s not their fault. Given that, what is productive? Call up, how can I support you, what is most effective way of getting this stuff done? Figure out communicaton plan. It’s about outcomes... working relationships.
However, if you feel the social worker is not doing his/her job, you do have the right to get a new social worker. All you need to do is ask.
• Get political with GGRC, they have monthly board meetings. There are also Annual Performance Contract meetings, very important meetings, ad no parents show up. Considering joining the board of the RC.
2. Residential options
• Mr. Rogin provided a handout on residential service options). The information was not unlike that on the SFASA website here.
• The state’s Community Placement Plan has created a variety of group homes, or licensed adult residential facilities, for those exiting the Developmental Centers. But we need this money to be serving DD adults coming from the community, which is a much larger population and equally needy.
• We could use the $75m annually for underserved people in the communities. State legislation. Force DDS to take money to allocate on diff population. Strong advocacy push... People are aware of autism explosion.
• GGRC has created a specialized group home for people with autism, including 1:1, and training. These options exist. but the RCs need to be enabled to develop new housing for these people in the community.
• Social workers do not think about housing, they think in terms of residential services, and they might not know all the models. Intentional communities not even on their radar.
• For ILS and SLS, you need to start planning for that well in advance of target move-out date. We need services in place before a move-in to an apartment. You are eligible for ILS for two years before your child moves out... needs to work on ...needs to build a relationship with caregivers. Evaluate SLS agencies, make plans.
• It’s easier for RCs to put people in group homes, it’s easier paperwork wise and more cost effective for them. Need to express why SLS. Ask the case manager... 3 or 4 agencies in this area...
• ILS and SLS agencies may not be accepting new clients, but get to know the agencies that exist... may have a waitlist. Depends on immediacy of need.
3. Getting Information about Programs and Providers
Parents often lament the lack of transparency about vendorized programs and provides. The Regional Centers do not provide easy access to information about the options for consumers. A lot of it is dysfunction, staff is overworked and face a complicated, outdated IT infrastructure, and have little to no admin support.
Perhaps develop template of information that you would like to see GGRC provide and work in partnership with them to create better access to information about vendors, services, locations, capacity. The service providers often oppose transparency and don’t have the bandwidth to be bothered by information requests.
4. Policy Issues
• Self-determination is coming. Currently you need to choose from vendored services. SD is about idea you take money to spend on whatever you want. Empowering person to spend money outside vendorized services. This model requires a lower caseload for RC workers. And optional program and the pilots have not yet started.
• Segregated settings: the federal Medicaid program will not support residential settings it believes are segregated and institutional.
• Community Placement Plan: The money has been directed at the Developmental Center closuresm but the greater need is for the adults transitioning out of family homes, not the DCs.
• Advocate for Policy Change, with RCs, the City, the State. Get a seat at the table.