The quality of life for those living with a disability in America has improved over the past 30 years. But for this segment of the nation’s population to reach full independence, it first must be able to be self-sufficient. The first step in this process is not unlike the first step for able-bodied individuals: to leave the security of home, and live on their own. The conundrum that many individuals with disabilities face is affordability of proper housing in relation to their financial means.
With the average person with a disability taking in a monthly Supplemental Security Income check of $763, and the prices for housing rising across the country, the odds are stacked against living an independent life. Nearly 5 million people with disabilities receive the monthly check from Uncle Sam. They would see all of that go to rent if they choose to go for a one-bedroom apartment or even a studio — and then some, depending on where they live. “Housing is a challenge for most of us; it’s a crisis for individuals on SSI,” said Kevin Martone, executive director of the Technical Assistance Collaborative. “Nowhere in the United States can people with disabilities receiving SSI afford a safe, decent place to live.”
His agency recently published a report that concluded the problem will get worse before it gets better. They spelled out one major factor that is contributing to this downward trend. The demand for rentals over the past ten years has driven up the price of once affordable housing that could have potentially been within the budget of a buyer with disabilities. Those who could afford to rent a low-income unit use 99 percent of their SSI income to pay rent, disregarding all other amenities of life. The answer, according to The Technical Assistance Collaborative (TAC) and the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Task Force, is more federally supplemented assistance.
For those who cannot afford to live on their own, one possible outcome is homelessness. A person is considered chronically homeless if they have a disability and if they either have been homeless for one full year or experienced four separate episodes of homelessness in one full year. These people account for 24 percent of the 369,081 total homeless population. Even in 2017, the number of people with disabilities living in institutions is between 200,000 and 300,000.
The Money Follows the Person program, which seeks to assist individuals with disabilities in their transition to independent living, is taking a huge funding hit. The study serves as a guide for families on how to navigate the four major housing plans. More information could be found here.