Living with the Questions [PDF]

Notes from a Gathering of People Concerned with Supported Living

John O’Brien

March 1995

Despite much talk about individualization, most people with developmental disabilities either live with their families or live in a place that belongs to someone else: a state service system, a nursing home operator, a residential service agency, or a family care provider. But a growing number of people with disabilities and their families have a better idea. For some people the better idea is, “Get me out of this nursing home or this group home and get me into my own place!” For others it’s, “I’m ready to move out of my parents’ home and establish myself.” Once the threat or the reality of being in an institution or a group residence is gone, other people say “Let’s get on with our lives and keep things growing!”

My own place

More and more service workers want to support people to live in their own place, in the way they want to live. They believe that their work means most when…

… plans and decisions are made close to people with disabilities who get the support they need to take increasing responsibility for directing their own lives
… people have the assistance they need to live in their own places
…people have the support they need to con- tribute as valued members of their commu- nities

The commitment to offer personalized assistance instead of taking control is based on a clear recognition that each person’s story, dreams, and supports is distinct from other people’s. The work of assisting people with disabilities as they unfold their own life stories has roots that run down into common issues, issues that we will only resolve when we confront the forces that divide people into “us” and “them” on the basis of disability and deal in a positive way with the forces that keep poor people without decent housing, secure health care, reasonable transportation and access to economic opportunities. In living out this commitment, there are no quick answers; no blueprints, there are only oppor- tunities to join people who want change in creating new answers.