In June, KJZZ told you about a community geared toward people with disabilities called Luna Azul in north Phoenix. Some residents there live mostly alone, while others found roommates. Still, finding the right roommate can be difficult. But there is a service to help families match up.
Pam Blanton is the founder and CEO of Partners4Housing. Her organization helps people with disabilities set up housing solutions so they can live more independently. And sometimes that means finding a roommate.
Blanton says there are not enough housing options for people with disabilities and some families don’t like the options that are out there, “so they want to create their own solution and the way to make that affordable and sustainable over time is by sharing the cost of housing and services,” she said.
Blanton says 70% of adults with disabilities in the U.S. live with their families. She says 24% of those family caregivers are over the age of 60.
Blanton says her company is the only matching service that pairs people with disabilities with other people with disabilities.
One of the biggest fears for parents of adults with disabilities is what will happen to their loved ones when caregivers die.
“Living at home isn’t going to work forever,” said Pam Blanton, founder of Partners4Housing, a Seattle company that helps people with disabilities live more independently.
More than 70 percent of young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, or 3.6 million people, live with a caretaker who is a family member. In one in four of those living arrangements, the caregiver is older than 60, according to a 2017 University of Colorado study.
With a national shortage of care providers and long waiting lists at group homes, families need to get creative to find safe and affordable housing solutions, advocates say.
Blanton started the company’s roommate matching service in 2013 to help families find compatible roommates for their children with autism and other developmental disabilities.
“Finding a roommate for anyone can be a challenge and finding a roommate for a person who also needs a more substantial safety net … is even more challenging,” said Mary Sheehan, whose son found a roommate through Partners4Housing. “It can be tricky to vet the other person as well as to admit to some quirky behaviors that those outside the disability community may not understand.”
Another company in Minnesota created a roommate matching service in 2018 to pair people with disabilities with typically-developing caregivers, but Partners4Housing’s service is believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S. Blanton believes it can be replicated nationwide.
“It’s a huge crisis as parents are aging and state services aren’t keeping up,” Blanton said. “What we do is help families figure out things on their own without help from the government.”
The roommates share living expenses and the costs of a live-in or visiting caregiver. Roommate pairing also helps avoid loneliness and isolation, Blanton said.
The service recently expanded beyond the Seattle area to all of Washington state plus Phoenix, where Partners4Housing teamed with another company, Luna Azul, which offers homes for sale in a community for people with disabilities.
At least 60 roommates have gotten settled into new living arrangements in Washington with help from Partners4Housing. Ten roommates have been matched in the Phoenix area since the service’s January 2019 launch there, Blanton said. The matched roommates range in age from 18 to 60 and live in apartments, homes or other types of housing such as mother-in-law units.
All of the roommates have some type of physical or developmental disability including autism. They are matched in two- or three-person housing arrangements, with some needing an extra bedroom for a full-time caregiver. Others need a few hours of outside support each week.
Each potential roommate must apply to be included in the matching service. The first step, which costs $300, involves a 127-question survey to determine a potential roommate’s favorite activities, support needs and what services including Medicaid and Social Security they may already be using. The families follow up with a consultation about their resources.
Blanton said that many of the families she works with are not familiar with all of the government and nonprofit funding and services that are available to them.
Those who are a good fit for the service then create a profile and can send messages to other families looking for roommates.
When a match is made, Partners4Housing helps develop household budgets and work through the caregiver hiring process.
“Every house is different, we just help families figure out what they need to do to set up a home that best meets the needs of their loved ones,” Blanton said. “The need is huge and families want to find a solution.”
If I could say one thing to the President or Congress, I would ask them how they would want their client to live that had a significant disability, would they want them institutionalized or live out in the community with their family and friends?
The housing choice voucher program is the federal government’s major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. Since housing assistance is provided on behalf of the family or individual, participants are able to find their own housing, including single-family homes, townhouses and apartments.
The participant is free to choose any housing that meets the requirements of the program and is not limited to units located in subsidized housing projects.
Housing choice vouchers are administered locally by public housing agencies (PHAs). The PHAs receive federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to administer the voucher program.
A family that is issued a housing voucher is responsible for finding a suitable housing unit of the family’s choice where the owner agrees to rent under the program. This unit may include the family’s present residence. Rental units must meet minimum standards of health and safety, as determined by the PHA.
A housing subsidy is paid to the landlord directly by the PHA on behalf of the participating family. The family then pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program. Under certain circumstances, if authorized by the PHA, a family may use its voucher to purchase a modest home.