Did you ever think about moving into a house or apartment in the
community so you could be more independent? Sometimes people with
developmental disabilities are afraid to think about living on
their own because they believe they will have to do it all by
themselves. We all need help to live on our own. Some people just
need more help than others.
If you want to live in a house or apartment but don’t think
you can manage it on your own, supported living may be the
answer. Supported living services are used by many adults with
developmental disabilities to help them live as independently as
possible in the community. When you live on your own, you have
all the responsibilities for running your own life that people
without disabilities have. For example, you will make choices
about where you live, whom you live with, how you spend your
time, and how you spend the money you have left after you pay
your rent and other regular bills.
What kind of support do you think you would need to live on your
own? Would you need someone to help you learn to shop, cook, or
handle your money? Would you need help with planning your doctor
appointments? Do you have physical challenges (such as using a
wheelchair) so that you need help with bathing and dressing?
Whatever your needs, supported living may be right for you. In
this booklet, we answer eight questions that clients and their
families often ask about supported living. The answers to these
questions can help you decide if you would like to try living
What Are Supported Living Services?
There is a very easy way to describe the services you may receive
in supported living: it is whatever help you need to make it
possible for you to live in a home of your own choice in the
community. You can get help with taking care of your home, taking
care of your personal needs, using community services, or just
about anything else. Supported living services are
“individualized.” This means they are different for each person,
depending on what the person needs and wants. For example, if you
just need help to pay bills, you could have a person come to your
home to work with you on paying your bills and balancing your
checkbook. If you need more support – for example, someone to
help you prepare meals, do laundry, or clean the house – you can
get that, too. If you just need to be reminded each morning to
take your medicine, someone would help you come up with a system
that will help you remember. When you first move into your own
place you will probably need more help than after you’ve been
living on your own for awhile. What kind and how much help you
receive at any time is based on how much you can do for yourself
and how much help you need to do things. It will be up to you and
your planning team working together to decide what services and
supports you might need and how those needs will change as you
learn to be more independent. Supported living services can help
people in four different ways: They help you develop skills.
These services help you learn to do things that allow you to be
more independent. This includes skills needed to take care of a
home (cooking, cleaning, etc.), skills needed to get around in
the community (using public transportation), and skills needed to
look after your personal needs (bathing, personal hygiene, etc.)
and to stay healthy (making doctor appointments, taking
medication, eating right, etc.). They give you support in things
that you can’t learn to do on your own. If it turns out that you
are not able to learn some of the skills, or if it looks like
training is not the right course for some of the things you need
to do, then people will make a plan to give you support in these
areas. For example, if you are unable to learn to pay bills or
balance your checkbook, someone can come to your home regularly
to help you do it. If you need personal assistance with things
like eating, bathing, and getting around the house, the supported
living provider can help you find someone to give you this kind
They make sure you have help in emergencies. Everyone in
supported living has someone he can call in case of an emergency
at any time of the day or night. Some of this assistance may be
provided by family or friends, but the supported living agency
will also assist with emergency back-up if needed. They help you
connect to other services and supports. A person living in the
community may have a range of other needs. For example, you may
want help with things such as signing up for a class at your
local community college, finding a dentist who accepts Medi-Cal,
getting your name on the waiting list for renters’ assistance
(Section 8 housing), or learning parenting skills. The supported
living instructor will help you find out where you can get these
services within your neighborhood or community, and he can even
help you make any appropriate applications, fill out any
necessary forms, etc. At the end of this booklet we talk about
“Guidelines for Supported Living Services.” We asked a large
number of people from the Harbor Regional Center area to describe
what they thought a really good supported living service would be
like. The people we asked were clients in supported living, their
families, regional center Service Coordinators and people who
provide supported living services. We put together what all these
groups told us and came up with a list of things that everybody
agreed on. If you read this list, it will help you understand
better what supported living services are. When you talk to
supported living providers about their services, you may want to
take this list with you and ask them if they do these things.
Who Provides Supported Living Services?
Supported living services are provided through an agency. For
example, Harbor Regional Center works with providers with names
like LifeSteps, Independent Visions, and Independent Focus. These
agencies have lots of people working for them, but a client
receiving supported living services usually has only one person
that he works with. This person is called his supported living
instructor. The supported living instructor helps the client
learn the things he is able to learn and helps him find support
to do things that he will always need help doing. He may also
help the client find other agencies that can provide him with
certain services. The client may have another person coming into
his home regularly to help him with self-care and the daily
responsibilities of running a home if the client is unable to do
them. This person provides In-home Supportive Services (IHSS).
Usually a person with physical disabilities gets this kind of
service. The supported living instructor can help the client
apply for IHSS and then hire an IHSS attendant to assist him as
needed in the home.
Who Is Eligible for Supported Living Services?
If you are a Harbor Regional Center client over the age of 18 and
interested in living on your own, you are eligible for supported
living. Your Service Coordinator will talk to you and your
family to make sure you understand what living on your own means.
The Service Coordinator will discuss with you what
responsibilities go along with supported living. For example, you
will be expected to have enough money to pay rent or a mortgage,
utilities like electricity and gas, and other daily living
expenses. The Service Coordinator will also discuss with you what
challenges there might be for people living on their own in the
community. Once you and your family understand what supported
living will mean for you, you may choose to try it
Will I Get All Of My Support From The Supported Living
Some of the things that people in supported living need help with
are the kinds of things that their friends or family members can
help with. These might be things such as taking you to church,
helping decorate your apartment, taking you grocery shopping, or
giving you a ride to work, the library, or your health club. When
people help you do things like this, it is called getting
“natural support.” For things that family and friends cannot do,
the supported living instructor will help you. The two of you
will set up a schedule for him to come regularly to your home. He
will help you learn new things and give you support when you need
it. If you qualify for IHSS services you will also have a
personal attendant coming into your home to help you with
self-care and perhaps other things.
Can I Live Alone Or Must I Have A Roommate?
While people in supported living do not have to have a roommate,
most do. They have roommates for two reasons. The first is that
often it is not possible for a person to afford to live alone.
Once they have paid their rent and other regular expenses, they
have no money left to buy things they want or go out with their
friends. Having a roommate means you will only have to pay half
the rent and half the utilities. If you and your roommate decide
to cook and eat together, you can also save money on food. The
second reason people usually have a roommate is so they have
someone to talk to and do things with.
Will The Regional Center Pay My Rent Or Other Things If I’m In
If you want to live in your own house or apartment in the
community, it is very important for you to remember that you must
have enough money to pay your expenses just like everyone else
does. You will need to pay your own rent, gas and electric, food,
and other regular expenses. You will also need to have a little
money left over so you can do things like go out with your
friends and buy clothes or things you like. Your income may come
from SSI or from a job, or from both. You may even be lucky
enough to have family who can help you with your expenses. But,
remember, the regional center does not pay rent for people in
supported living. This is one reason that most people who choose
to live this way have a roommate.
Your medical care would probably be paid for by Medi-Cal or, if
you have a job with benefits, by your private medical insurance.
If you have physical disabilities or other special needs, you may
qualify for IHSS money that would allow you to hire someone to
come into your home to provide personal assistance.
How Do I Get Started On The Road To More Independence?
Whenever you make a big change in your life, you must plan ahead.
Moving into supported living is just like any other big change.
You need to give yourself plenty of time to prepare before you
make the move. You will need at least six months and maybe as
much as a year to do all the things you need to do. Let’s look at
what some of these things are.
Deciding where you want to live. It may take a long time to look
around and decide what kind of a place you’d like to live in and
where you’d like it to be. First of all, you will want to find a
place that is not outside of your budget and you will want it to
be in a safe neighborhood. You need to decide if you want to live
close to your family or your job, close to shopping, or close to
friends or places in the community that you visit often. You
probably will want to be close to a bus line. Some people like to
have a house with a yard so they can plant flowers or have a
vegetable garden. Some people want to have a pet like a cat or a
dog. You need to think about all of these things when choosing a
place to live.
Finding a roommate
Most people in supported living have a roommate and it often
takes a while to find someone you want to live with. If you can’t
afford to pay all of the rent by yourself, you will need to find
a roommate before you move into your own place so you can share
the expenses from the very beginning.
Learning a few important independent living
Having a few more basic skills may make your transition from
where you are now to supported living smoother. For example, if
you know how to cook a few simple meals before you move, you will
be much better off than if you have to depend on other people for
this. If nothing else, you will be able to eat when you’re hungry
rather than waiting for someone else. If you know where the local
stores are, you will be able to do your own shopping right from
Getting furniture and supplies
If you move into your own place, you will need your own
furniture, dishes, pots and pans for cooking, and other things
such as sheets and towels. It may take you a while to get all the
things you need. You will probably get some of these things from
your family or friends, but you may also need to buy some. Garage
sales and flea markets are good places to look for things like
this. And don’t forget, you might need to save money to pay
someone to move you into your new home, if you do not have
friends or family who can help you with moving.
As you can see, there are lots of things to do and lots of things
to think about when you decide you want to move out on your own.
Just remember to give yourself time and don’t think you have to
do everything at once. Remember also that lots of people around
you will be willing to help you plan your exciting move.
What does HOPE have to do with supported living?
Harbor Regional Center works very closely with an organization
called Home Ownership for Personal Empowerment, or HOPE, that
provides affordable housing for HRC clients. HOPE buys houses and
condos, fixes them up, and rents them at low rates to clients of
Harbor Regional Center. (The rents are usually not more than
about one-third of the renter’s monthly income.) A special
feature of these homes is that every resident has his or her own
bedroom. Because the homes are owned by an organization set up
only for this purpose, HOPE offers greater stability than most
other community-based options. In other words, HOPE will most
likely always be there for clients. If you would like to learn
more about this program, ask your regional center Service
Coordinator for information on how to apply.
How Do I Learn More?
If you are interested in learning more about supported living or
anything else discussed in this booklet, talk to your Harbor
Regional Center Service Coordinator. Ask her to arrange for you
to talk with some supported living service providers so you can
learn more about what services and supports are available.
Probably one of the best ways to help you decide whether you want
to try supported living is to talk to some HRC clients who have
been living this way for awhile. They can tell you about some of
the challenges they had achieving their dream of living on their
own. They can also tell you about how their lives changed as they
became more independent. In the back of this booklet you will
find a checklist of questions that you could ask of people in
supported living. Also in the back of this booklet is a checklist
of questions you might want to ask of the supported living
service providers you talk to.
AND FINALLY…Remember what we said at the beginning of this
booklet: It’s OK if you don’t want to live on your own, but you
shouldn’t be afraid to try. If you do decide to try, you’ll have
lots of help
Create stable, affordable housing options for people with developmental disabilities
HOPE partners with Regional Centers to offer a variety of housing
Since 1995 HOPE’s programs have been allowing people with
developmental disabilities to live a life they may have only
dreamed about. In either affordable housing, state-licensed group
homes, or in a college dorm setting, HOPE’s tenants are making
their dreams come true.