The following hypothetical situation is based on observations from a recent visit to an Independent Apartment Community, Casa de Amma:
Imagine walking into your apartment lobby after a long day …
Your neighbors greet you by name as they sift through their mail and chat about all of the day’s events – volunteering, working, and appointments. While some of your neighbors are well spoken, others struggle with speech and language. Even so, you know your neighbors well enough to understand their unique ways of communicating.
It’s time to check into the building!
You make your way to the daily activity board. “Hmm,” you ponder, “Should I take the class on creating a blog or a cooking workshop?” As you sign up for the class on blogging, you notice that your triathlon team has practice tonight. “It’s Battle of the Sexes month…” you recall. “The ladies are going to crush ‘em!” You see the Supports Coordinator going downstairs to the gym and double-check that you are still on for your meeting about the community cruise you will be attending.
Walking down the hall to your apartment, you notice your neighbor got a new doormat. “I’ve been needing one of those, myself,” you think as you mentally note to add it to your grocery list.
As you unlock the door and walk into your one-bedroom apartment, you smell a strong lemon scent. “The housekeepers must have come and deep cleaned the bathroom,” you consider as you catch a glimpse of your sparkling shower.
A noise outside draws you to your balcony. You notice a group of neighbors hanging out in the courtyard. While you are tempted to join them, you recognize you are tired from a full day at work and decide to lay in bed and regroup with some peaceful music instead.
“Should I cook tonight?” you wonder with a notable lack of enthusiasm. “Hm, I think I’d rather catch up with some friends in the dining hall. It’s Italian night after all.”
What are Independent Apartment Communities?
Despite having long waitlists, any existing residential options across the country are hosting tours to share how they were able to turn housing visions into housing realities. Their goal is to encourage other project starters and families to consider creating their own housing solutions. For the first time, some of these organizations have put a name and description to an increasingly popular type of housing option: Independent Apartment Communities (IAC).
According to the Independent Apartment Communities group, features of IACs include:
- Housing and support services for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities
- Comprehensive, optional, individualized, flexible, and person-centered programming and supports
- Rejection of rules that limit individualization, person-centered plans, and freedom of each resident
- Individual apartments have private bedrooms and bathrooms
- A building with a shared front door to access the apartment community
- All residents have their own building front door and apartment key and can access the building and their apartment independently at any time
- Common areas that create social opportunities in a safe and responsive environment
- Shared meals offered in order to create a family dining experience
- 24-hour staffing is provided
- A lease agreement with all the legal protection of any landlord/tenant agreement
Casa de Amma recently introduced the Independent Apartment Communities group by hosting a one-day conference in southern California. This event brought attention and awareness to the IACs group’s mission:
“The IAC exists to offer education, resources, networking and support for those that want to create Independent Apartment Communities in their local area and to support existing Independent Apartment Communities to best fulfill their mission in a sustainable and person-centered focus.”
Over 75 people attended to learn about the unique characteristics of different IACs, their origins and tips for construction, funding models, and what roles are needed to successfully turn a vision into reality.
The following videos show why some of these parents think an IAC may be a good option for their loved one with special needs:
Individuals with autism, intellectual and developmental disabilities should have clear explanations of housing and support choices to determine what setting and support system is best tailored to meet their individual needs. Thank you to the Independent Apartment Communities group for defining IACs, and for helping us better understand this residential option.
If you would like to learn more or join the association of IAC’s, you can reach out to Aaron Vorell, Executive Director of Casa de Amma, at Avorell@casadeamma.org or (949) 496-9001 ext.103
ABOUT the AUTHOR
Desiree Kameka, Director of Community Education & Advocacy at Madison House Autism FoundationDesiree’s work focuses on researching housing issues, advocating for autistic adults and their issues, and presenting her work at local and national gatherings. She visits many residential communities and social enterprises across the USA and highlights their unique victories and learning curves while sharing stories of residents with autism and other developmental disabilities. Desiree is also the project lead for Madison House’s interactive Autism Housing Network, which is currently in BETA testing. Her passion is empowering autistic adults and parents to create a future that is exciting and life affirming by offering small group consultations for forming projects.