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Supported Housing and Community Integration

Tammy Reynolds, B.A., C.E. Zupanick, Psy.D. & Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

At one time, housing options were very limited for people with intellectual disabilities (ID, formerly mental retardation). They resided with family members; in a group home; or, in an institution. We now know that many people with IDs can reside independently. With additional supports, they can live within the community of their choice. This is often called community integration. It means people with IDs are no longer destined to live apart from the rest of society.

The Supports Intensity Scale (Thompson et.al, 2004) is often used to aid housing decisions. The key is to match the housing choices to a person's skills, abilities, and preferences. This scale also identifies what supports are needed so people with IDs can live safely and securely in their preferred housing arrangement.

Supported housing refers to broad range of housing options. Regardless of the specific type, it usually includes linkages to other supportive resources. Residents may be offered easy access to supports to help them remain independent. This might include an onsite social skills training group. They may be offered a job coach through supported employment programs. Other linkages might include occupational therapy and life skills training.

A service coordinator (case manager) may visit frequently. These visits ensure the proper mix and intensity of supports. The service coordinator may also help residents to practice life skills in the real world. For instance, a service coordinator may help a resident practice using public transportation to get to work. They may visit a grocery store to learn shopping skills. They may also practice cooking skills and the use of appliances. A more intensive type of support is a group home. Here residents live alongside other persons with disabilities. Paid professional staff provide 24-hour guidance and supervision.