Key to My Own Front Door [PDF]

Tell Me a Story of Deep Delight

An Account of the Work of a Network of Families in the Durham Region*

John O’Brien

May. 1998

“For every one person with a [disability] label who owns or leases their own home, twelve people who get residential services do not. This is a good start, but I’m worried about the other twelve people. Our group wants the President’s Committee to ask the President to make it easy for people with disabilities to have a home that they control with a lease or ownership. People need to have control of their front door.
-T.J. Monroe

Across the United States, at least 28,000 people with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities experience the rewards and responsibilities of having a home of their own. Most of these people lease their homes, but a small and growing number have the opportunity and assistance they need to become home owners. Their experience demonstrates that many people now housed in large and small residential facilities would, if offered the opportunity, chose and benefit from having the keys to the front doors of safe and decent homes that they select and control with the support of family and friends and the assistance of agencies dedicated to providing individually required personal assistance. They have shown that levels of initiative and commitment predict who can live successfully in their own homes far better than levels of apparent disability can.

While this working group focused on housing, it is vital to recognize that most people with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities can only live in a home of their own if effective, sufficient, flexible, individually focused personal assistance is available to them. The continuing, massive investment of federal and state funds in congregate residential facilities of all sizes constitutes the biggest single barrier to more people gaining control of their own front doors.