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From the Editor

My son, who has a disability, lives here at home and we haven’t explored housing options, so I will be learning about housing right along with you in this issue! My son seems happy and comfortable here, but I wonder how he might grow in confidence and independence by moving into his own house or apartment.

What about you and your family? Whether your child is young or an adult, we all think about where our children will live and what living situation will make them most happy. 

This issue just touches upon housing resources. We hope it points you in the right direction as you consider housing for your family member.

Best to you and yours,

Maria Schaertel


Person-Centered Thinking is the Basis for Seeking Housing

Everything begins with the person who is seeking housing.


Before any work on housing begins, a deep understanding of the person’s wishes, desires, needs and resources need to be undertaken. For people who have difficulty communicating, this process may take many hours, but without a sound beginning no housing plan will be sustainable.


Person-centered planning can include:

Conversation grounded in deep listening. Excellent person-centered planners are deep listeners. They come to the conversation with no preconceived notions. They are deeply curious about the persons with whom they are planning. They want to listen and support people’s purposes, gifts and capacities.


Planning requires a profound respect for people and their life experiences, regardless of the complexity of the disability. Great person-centered planners do not consider planning as something done “to” or “at” people. They consider themselves to be co-creators acting with people.


A lens which puts people’s life experiences into context. Many people with disabilities have a history of loneliness and not being valued. They have been subjected to low expectations and years, if not decades, of “programs” of meaningless activities. Quality person-centered planning reveals these experiences, supports others to understand them, and addresses them in a healing fashion as part of the plan.

Adapted from https://nyhrc.org/index.php

Finding a Housing Navigator

Could you use some guidance through the process of finding housing? Try using a Housing Navigator. Housing Navigation services include:

  • Developing an individual housing action plan.
  • Implementing a housing action plan
  • Finding a Home
  • Coordinating a move
  • Housing sustainability plan and transition to ongoing service providers
  • Housing crisis resolution

The directory, linked below, includes the certified Housing Navigators who have chosen to share their information with the public. Follow the steps below to sort the directory by Region and locate a Housing Navigator near you.

If you are unable to locate a Housing Navigator in your region through the directory, please revisit the directory as new profiles are added occasionally.

To sort the directory by region, click the button below to view the directory. Click the plus sign next to "DDRO Region" on the directory page and choose your region then click "Refresh" to view available Housing Navigators in your region.”

View Housing Navigator Directory

From https://nyhrc.org/HN_Directory_Welcome

Types of Housing

OPWDD (NYS Office for Persons with Developmental Disabilities) provides supports for people to live at home or in a home in their community so they can be as independent as possible.

Depending upon their needs, your child or family member could:

  • Live with your family in your family home with the right supports, such as respite and community habilitation.
  • Live independently with assistance, in their own apartment or house. They can also have a live-in caregiver. Housing subsidies are available to help manage the costs of their home or apartment.
  • Paid Neighbor provides help when they need it, for certain tasks or dealing with problems. They are "on-call" to help.
  • Family Care is living with another family, participating in all the things that families do.
  • In some circumstances, depending upon the level of need, your child or family member may choose to live in an Individualized Residential Alternative (IRA, also known as Group Home) with other people with developmental disabilities.

From https://opwdd.ny.gov/types-services/housing  

Resources to Pay for Housing and Living in the Community

We asked James Traylor, President, Rivent Partners, for guidance in understanding the following resources.


Certified Housing – housing that must meet federal rules and standards. Individual states make sure that houses comply with these standards. An example would be a Family Care home, which is certified by OPWDD; the family care provider makes sure you have the help you need to be safe and active. A Group Home is another example where a small group of people in a certified house operated by OPWDD or one of its provider agencies can provide extra support if needed while continuing to provide the opportunity for community living. Staff at the home will help meet needs of people living in the house. Person contributes entire SS check less a small allowance to pay for housing. The state receives reimbursement via Medicaid.


Non-certified housing – any home outside of the certified system. These homes may be in apartments or houses, co-operatives, condominiums, owned by persons, agencies, families or corporations. In other words, places where the typical population lives. It may be home for one person or more, they may share with other people with disabilities or with people without disabilities. There are typically fewer people than in a certified setting. 

Consists of market-rate housing where it is up to the individual to weave together resources to help pay bills. OPWDD, via Self-Directed services, will pay a maximum of 2/3 of housing costs. It is up to the individual to use:


Wages, SSI, SSD, and Childhood Disability benefits to pay for rent or mortgage.

Energy and Utility Costs – HEAP (Home Energy Assistance Program)

Food – SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)

Live-in Caregiver supports are available.

CDPAP – NYS (Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program) allows parents of children with special needs to hire homecare help from within the family if their child receives Medicaid benefits.

If personal savings are used to pay for housing, SSI benefits will be reduced by 1/3.

Another option to use is the ABLE account – SSI will not be reduced if using the ABLE account to pay for housing. 

A Parent's Perspective

By Cindy Lill, the mother of an adult son who utilizes Self-Directed services and

co-founder of In the Driver’s Seat.



Over 25 years ago, another mother and I worked with the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) to open the first non-certified home in New York. Self-Direction did not exist at this time. Since there were no Fiscal Intermediaries (FI’s), we had to find an agency that would work with us to hire staff and process the funds involved.


I advise families to have as many of the following topics covered before committing to an apartment or house:


Finding Roommates

Agencies (FI’s, Support Brokers) may be able to help with finding a roommate(s). Additionally, the following may be helpful:


  • Network within your disability-specific groups
  • Word of mouth
  • Post in social media


Hiring staff

I recommend hiring staff to begin working with the person receiving services as soon as possible, hopefully before moving into their new home. The process of moving involves so much change. Support staff can provide comfort, continuity, and stability during what can be a hectic time. Here are some ways to find staff:


  • Work with an agency
  • In the Driver’s Seat is now utilizing Handshake to help families find/hire staff. (Handshake connects businesses to college students for employment opportunities.)
  • Word of mouth
  • Post in social media
  • Post flyers in coffeeshops near you
  • Use college contacts to access virtual college bulletin boards
  • Care.com


Roommate Compatibility

It’s important to have compatible roommates (if you are not living alone). Finding a roommate(s) with common interests and personalities that don’t clash will go a long way with ensuring a safe and peaceful household.


The families MUST be compatible too. If roommates are not getting along, parents will feel compelled to step in - I have seen families cause more problems than their children! Families should have the same expectations when it comes to practices and priorities.


As in all relationships, roommates will have differences. Staff should be prepared to support roommates as issues arise. It may help to discuss possible scenarios and ways to support the roommates.


Creating policies and procedures to provide guidance and uniformity regarding decision-making and to reduce risks of undesirable events is crucial. As with any business, good policies and procedures will set clear expectations, reinforce standards, and hopefully lead to a lively and pleasant home. 

Starbridge's Home and Community Supports

Supervised Residences - residences that are staffed 24/7 by trained and caring direct-support professionals. Our homes and apartments are located in Brighton, Irondequoit, and Rochester, and are certified by the NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD).

Warfield Square Apartments - individuals who have OPWDD eligibility and prefer to live in a non-certified setting should consider Warfield Square Apartments. Located at 1337 E. Main Street in Rochester, Warfield Square offers a mix of affordable housing options, including 16 units designated for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Community Habilitation - Starbridge offers one-on-one support to adults and young adults with disabilities in increasing or maintaining independence. Our Com Hab counselors provide support as directed by you and your Life Plan. Some examples are:

  • managing your money
  • trying out and shopping for healthy foods
  • increasing exercise
  • obtaining library cards or gym memberships
  • exploring your community
  • volunteering
  • and more!


Family Reimbursement Program - The Family Reimbursement Program is one of Starbridge’s Family Support Services (FSS), funded through the NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). Many families who have a family member with a developmental disability living at home have special expenses that the typical family does not have. Expenses covered by FSS Family Reimbursement may include goods and services, respite care, community involvement, and other items. This program is designed to assist the family with these increased costs. The maximum amount of FSS Family Reimbursement allowed by OPWDD for eligible individuals is $3,000 per calendar year. At Starbridge, we are able to process approved requests up to the individual max of $3,000.


Working with an Advocate - Starbridge Advocates partner with people who have disabilities and their circles of support to identify the individual’s goals, to share information about all available resources, and to empower individuals and families to know their rights and become successful advocates in their own lives. In some cases, a Starbridge Advocate may provide more intensive support as an individual or family works to address specific issues or concerns.

We support every person’s right to choose the living situation that works best for them. We partner with individuals and families to identify options, navigate systems, and connect to resources.


For further information, please see our website

Additional Resources

Housing Connect is an electronic newsletter keeping you up-to-date on the latest housing information. To sign up for the newsletter, click here

The Housing Resource Guide

Housing and Self-Direction: An Overview of Non-Certified Housing-Related Services

In the Driver’s Seat – a comprehensive website for help in navigating self-directed services. Need a great resource for finding staff or a roommate? Try this resource.

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