Living independently….they make it look easy, the guys here on the Hill. The rent gets paid, the pantry is full, and several times a week support people show up to make sure individual goals are being met…. goals that are developing self-sufficiency as well as goals that are just plain fun. Everyone here seems to be enjoying a rich, rewarding, healthy and safe lifestyle. So why isn’t this model more common, you ask? Why don’t more families just find a place to rent and call a moving company?
Ask Patrick’s mom just how easy this is. Ask how many phone calls she has made this week, how many emails she has written… To Social Security, or the Department of Public Welfare, or the Pennsylvania Department of Long Term Living, or the provider agency that sends his support people, or the supports coordinator that oversees the provider agency that sends the support people. Ask her how many times she’s made the half-hour drive to the Hill… to bring medication, or a pair of snow boots, or to pick up Patrick for a family birthday party.
Getting set up is definitely not easy, not when it is absolutely necessary to have both Social Security benefits as well as 15 hours minimum of support coming in. Navigating the systems involved can be so overwhelming… many individuals and their families never get past just thinking about the possibility of an independent life. It shouldn’t be this difficult, but it is.
But it can be done!… it’s not easy, but it is absolutely possible for many many people with autism and other disabilities who have not yet taken the first step. It takes the good part of a year sometimes, to get things into place. But it does happen. And it already has here… for Ray, Brent, Jose, and Andy.
The funding and support programs for these four guys are in place and functioning, with relatively little maintenance at this point. They are set up with social security benefits, government waiver funding that provides supports, medical assistance, dependable support people, food stamps, some part time employment, volunteer positions in the community, and snow boots. Well, maybe not the snow boots, because they still seem to lose things quite often.
So coming next in Part 2 is a step by step guide of ‘nuts and bolts’ instructions on how to set up an independent living situation for a person with autism or intellectual disability in the state of Pennsylvania. Once this is all done, there’s still the actual ‘getting along with housemates, new routines, and making my own lunch when I don’t want to’ part, but those stories will follow in good time.