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May 2013 Newsletter

Visit HCC’s Fourth Street Apartments 

On Thursday, May 9th, at 12:30 p.m., Housing Choices Coalition will host a tour of Fourth Street Apartments, a 100-unit Partner Property located at 1460 North Fourth Street in downtown San Jose.   HCC maintains the wait list for 29 units designated for rent to people with developmental disabilities.  Completed by affordable housing developer First Community Housing in July 2012, Fourth Street Apartments is one of a handful of Platinum LEED multi-family residential buildings in California and offers a number of green building features, including a “green” roof.  In addition to benefiting from a variety of unit sizes and rent levels, residents enjoy a free Eco-pass for using public transit in Santa Clara County, a computer learning center, a community room, and an outdoor play and picnic area, and they are supported by HCC’s Resident Coordination program.  HCC’s property tours are designed to help people who are considering different community housing options learn more about specific properties before they apply.  To learn more about living at Fourth Street Apartments, register now for the property tour. 

Autism Society Will Host Housing Summit  

The Autism Society of the San Francisco Bay Area will host a summit on housing for adults with autism and developmental disabilities on May 29, 2013 at 6:30 pm at the University Club in Palo Alto.  Topics will include a review of community housing options, coordination with (and funding for) necessary services and day programs, keeping your adult child at home (and funding to make that feasible), and safeguards to promote quality care and prevent sexual, physical, and financial abuse.  The event will feature speakers from Housing Choices Coalition, San Andreas Regional Center, Atlas Living, Sweetwater Spectrum, Friends of Children with Special Needs, Pacific Autism Center for Education, the Morgan Autism Center, and Sunflower Hill.  RVSPs are required and a $10 donation is requested.  To RSVP, click here.    

Housing Partner:   Taft College's Transition to Independent Living Program  

Founded in 1995, when Housing Choices Coalition was also just getting organized, the Taft College’s Transition to Independent Living (TIL) Program has been an active partner with Housing Choices Coalition since 1997.   Located in Kern County,  the TIL program provides a residential community college experience for people with developmental disabilities who want to develop the skills for living independently.  Click here to learn more about Taft's TIL program.   

According to Jamia Marcell, TIL’s Transition Specialist, approximately one-third of TIL’s students come from the San Andreas Regional Center, which serves people with developmental disabilities in one of the nation’s most expensive housing markets.  To fulfill their dream of living independently, TIL students must begin searching for affordable housing “back home” almost as soon as they start their two-year program of study at Taft.  “My job is to help students find affordable, safe, clean housing near transportation, shopping and services, so that they can return to their home communities and truly live into their independence,” she said.  “If the students “bounce back” from TIL to their parents’ home because they can’t find affordable housing, that undermines what they have achieved at Taft.” 

HCC recently partnered with TIL by helping students apply for the Ford Road Supportive Housing lottery.  Jamia Marcell accompanied interested students to the application workshops and interviews and is shown in this photo participating in a Ford Road Supportive Housing Part II application workshop with HCC’s Housing Coordinator Alex Bonilla, TIL student Alex “Willie” Rountree, and Willie’s mother, Karen.  Willie wants to live in Silicon Valley for two reasons:  he’d like to live equi-distant between the homes of his mother and father, and he's intent on finding a job in one of California’s strongest job markets. If Willie's application is successful, he will join other TIL alumni who are represented at all of HCC's Silicon Valley Partner Properties.

In praising the partnership between TIL and Housing Choices, Jamia Marcell observed:  “There are other housing organizations serving other parts of California’s Regional Center system, but there is no organization comparable in scope or effectiveness to Housing Choices Coalition.”

A Parent Asks:  Without Housing, Can the Promise of the Lanterman Act Be Realized? 

Debby Lesser, the author of this letter to Terri Delgadillo, Director of the Department of Developmental Services, is a parent and advocate for community housing for people with developmental disabilities.  She lives in Half Moon Bay, works for Abilities United and serves on the Board of Directors of West Bay Housing, HCC’s counterpart serving the consumers of the Golden Gate Regional Center (GGRC). 

Dear Ms. Delgadillo,

I am a parent of a 24 year-old son with a developmental disability, living in the Bay Area. I've been involved with the service system for many years, as a board member for GGRC and other agencies that service individuals with developmental disabilities, as an advocate and of course, as a parent.

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate to be able to see "The R Word," a Canadian documentary about the movement in Canada away from state hospitals and institutions, which mirrored what was happening here in the US and also England and other places.  It was mainly interviews with adults who had lived in the institutions most of their lives and had gotten out and were living their lives, and also interviews with their families. There was footage of the institutions and footage of various professionals of the time talking about their methodologies.  It was a powerful documentary that I would highly recommend if you haven't seen it, not high-budget by any means, but not a film that you'll ever forget. The fact that this was taking place in our lifetimes is mind boggling.

Here we are, 44 years since the Lanterman Act was passed though, and we still have no clear pathway as to how we will manage to find community housing for the majority of our regional center clients. When the economy is strong, housing is completely out of bounds, when the economy is weak there are no funds available, so when is the right time?  

DDS and the State still have much work to do. There is a huge piece of the puzzle missing -- community housing for adults who are still living at home. DDS and the State must truly make the commitment to fulfill the promise of the Lanterman Act because by not acting, our adults with developmental disabilities are being denied their basic right to safe, secure, affordable housing.

So, what is the plan?  When parents age and become ill or die, will we place our regional center clients into group homes?  Is that the plan? Will we start building more and more group homes?  I have to ask myself, have we devoted all of this time and all these public resources to helping our regional center clients become independent adults only to house them in group homes?? 

Today I received an email from a friend in Half Moon Bay, who shipped her son to Redding in order to find him an appropriate placement.  She has moved there herself for some period of time (months) to work on transitioning her son back home. I wanted you to see part of her email:

“Yes, this is best for (my son).  I am not too sure where it leaves me, but all of us moms are rather secondary to our kid’s needs, right?!   We have had two big blowups in the evening but then get therapy and behavioral help around it the next day.  I am carrying my index card listing all the different strategies for handling things in my pocket every minute of the day.  It is already in shreds from repeatedly pulling it out of my pocket--I need to make a few and laminate them! 

 ...I am somewhat sad to be delaying my dream to work with one of the "big data" projects in the bay area, but need to take care of (my son) or I will have no mental peace.  In the absence of friendship up here (in Redding) and the desire for mental stimulation, have been hanging out at the big box stores.....”

I know so many families with so many stories:  a 68- year old single mom, recovering cancer patient, who has an adult  son with CP and is severely disabled;  a 65+ year-old widow, also cancer patient, who has two developmentally disabled adult sons; many divorced parents trying their best to come together and do what’s best for their kids;  parents signing up their kids for research projects in the hope that a cure will be found, parents experimenting with medications on their kids in order to try and control seizures, anxiety, depression, aggression…. They are all waiting for our Leadership to have the political will to do something so that their children will have places to live.  They are all waiting to know what to tell their kids...and I wonder how many more decades it will take for the Lanterman Act to be realized.


Debby Lesser
Half Moon Bay, CA

Statewide People First Gathering in San Jose

Early Bird Registration remains open until May 17 for the statewide gathering of People First, a self-advocacy movement of people with developmental disabilities.  The self-advocacy movement seeks to reduce the isolation of people with developmental disabilities and give them the tools and experience to take greater control over their own lives.  Self-advocates are dedicated to the principle that, even when a person with a disability must call upon the support of others, the individual is entitled to be in control of their own resources and how they are directed.  

The statewide conference will take place on June 28, 29, and 30 in San Jose.  HCC clients interested in attending are encouraged to contact HCC's Senior Resident Coordinator, Crystal Bruffett, for information about assistance with registration costs.  Click here for more information about the event.