Self-advocate with autism seeks to address United States Senate members concerning hope within federal housing.
Nathan Young, a self-advocate with autism, is determined to live the American Dream by working from home. Local Regional Center programs encouraged him to participate in Self-Determination, a state and federally funded program that encourages people to do what it takes to become self-sufficient. However, Nathan feels that the federal housing program he participates in, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is out of date with modern Self-Determination programs and is unfairly limiting his, and everyone else in his position, potentials to achieve self-sufficiency.
HUD’s policy states that people in Nathan’s position must live in housing with rent falling under a certain amount of money. This seems like a reasonable request, except that the number is not high enough to allow someone who is working from home to expand their workspaces, even into something as simple as a home garage. For example, Nathan, has spent the last seven years living inside a candle factory because he cannot afford to move his business out of his living space without relying on additional supports from social service agencies. He tried to find living quarters with a garage, but the only place he could find with rent low enough to qualify for the HUD program had a severe rat problem, eventually forcing Nathan to use state resources to help him move.
Not only does the HUD program not offer enough support to allow people with developmental disabilities to work from home, but an option to pay the difference does not exist. According to HUD, In order to attain the much needed extra space, one must either leave the program, or find a landlord who is willing to provide two leases for the same property, which, as one might expect, is an unnecessary burden to that landlord.
The failure to allow reasonable accommodation to people who try to work from home has resulted in stunting progress and potential outcomes. This teaches that, in order to try to become a successful member of society, one must exit such programs and risk homelessness. This in turn expands the resistance of landlords to rent to low income tenants who don’t have federal housing assistance, which then increases the likeliness of homelessness and creates a cycle that can easily spiral out of control. All of this leaves people with developmental disabilities to experience less opportunity and more injustice, yet again, lost in the middle of a system designed for, and by, the average members of society.
Nathan’s efforts in self-determination have been relentless and should be seen as an example of the motivation and potential progress that is possible by those with autism and other substantial disabilities. Without the freedom to take reasonable steps to follow through with self-determination goals, self-employment simply creates further reliance upon government programs. Nathan is hoping only to be allowed to expand his space, without burden to HUD, and in doing so, expand his ability to become more self-sufficient, stating:
Having a place to live, and the federal help to achieve community living, is a great thing. However, living without working is contrary to human nature. It is important and healthy, even rehabilitative, to contribute and feel productive in any way one can. People with forms of substantial disabilities need innovative government policies for reasonable access to hope to achieve a gainful American way of life. A simple garage for instance, is a million possibilities in the making.
John F. Kennedy once said:
The goals of our public welfare program must be positive and constructive. [The welfare program] must stress the integrity and preservation of the family unit. It must contribute to the attack on dependency, juvenile delinquency, family breakdown, illegitimacy, ill health, and disability. It must reduce the incidence of these problems, prevent their occurrence and recurrence, and strengthen and protect the vulnerable in a highly competitive world.
Please help tell the story so people like Nathan, and everyone else in his position, can have a chance to experience the American Dream.
For more information about this issue, contact Autism Candles Lighting the Path.