[Reproduced with permission from Valerie's Week in Review, a blog written by San Francisco mom Audrey deChadenedes]
Dear Governor Brown,
Hello again. I hope you’ve been thinking about how much money you want to budget for Developmental Services. I hope you’ve decided to increase their funding by at least 10%. I’m sure you’ve heard the same statistics I have and know that the shortfall is closer to 45%. Please don’t leave Californians with developmental disabilities stranded.
Valerie had a busy week. The issue that stands out the most is housing, and that’s what Valerie’s Week in Review will focus on. I’m sure you know how dire this situation is. How is an aging single parent supposed to ensure her daughter’s safe, healthy, and happy future when there’s no place for her to live? When even the services that do exist are hanging by a thread? Please help. Thank you again for reading our report.
VALERIE’S WEEK IN REVIEW
MAY 1, 2015
This week was a busy one for Valerie. Besides her usual 5 days at her day program, Monday evening Conversation Club, and Tuesday evening Dance and Drama Class (City College), she had an appointment with her Pulmonologist, a Physical Therapy appointment, and her annual IPP meeting.
One of the key team members at her IPP was a representative of a Bay Area non-profit that works to find affordable housing for people with disabilities.
We started talking and thinking about this at least 5 years ago. As previously stated, I won’t live forever, and it seemed wise to explore options for Valerie’s future and put a plan into place while I can still work with providers to create a home and supports that serve Valerie’s needs. We visited group homes – in Val’s case, she’d have to go to an Intermediate Care Facility because of her medical needs. She decided she did NOT want that. The places we visited looked and felt like hospitals, not homes, and the residents didn’t interact at all. Valerie wants to live in a lively, active, integrated environment, with people of differing abilities. She loves being part of her community and this is not only good for her, I believe it’s good for the community too.
At that time, 5 years ago, we were advised to start getting Valerie onto waiting lists, as the typical wait time was 2-5 years. Val is now on 5 waiting lists for housing and according to the very discouraging information we received at her IPP, there is no change in sight.
In fact, she didn’t even make it to the wait lists for the last two housing opportunities we heard about. There was a lottery to get onto each wait list; the woman who attended Val’s meeting told us that for just one of those “opportunities”, a building with 65 units, 10,000 applications were submitted.
In the 1980s California began the process of de-institutionalizing people with developmental disabilities, explicitly requiring “community-based” housing solutions. As a result, every housing element must contain a plan for addressing housing needs for the developmentally disabled within the jurisdiction. Public policy is one thing. Reality is another: there is currently no available housing for the growing numbers of developmentally disabled San Franciscans and no plans to expand availability of developmental disability housing in the city.
So Valerie goes on (or tries to go on) long, long wait lists, along with all the others eligible for low income housing. The numbers are daunting. A report issued this week by the California Housing Partnership states that California has a shortfall of 1.54 million homes for VLI (Very Low Income) and ELI (Extremely Low Income) renter households and this affects every county in the state. Individuals with developmental disabilities, who often live only on SSI, fall into these categories. Only 12% of adults with disabilities in CA have full-time employment. State and Federal investment in the production and preservation of affordable housing in California has dropped 69% since the great recession.
What do we do? We’ve joined with other local families trying to locate and create solutions (PANDH SF), and we try to connect with our legislators in hopes that they will understand and address this dire need. I pray that they will hear us.