Disability RAPP: Need for personal care workers and housing issues discussed

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Disability RAPP Webinar

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MANCHESTER, NH – The Institute on Disability, New Hampshire’s University Center for Excellence in Disability, hosted a webinar on June 1st in support of their newest newsletter, called Disability RAPP (Research Advocacy Policy and Practice). I wrote the cover story for this newsletter and participated as a panelist in the webinar.

Disability RAPP Logo e1655174439449The spring 2022 edition of Disability RAPP, published on May 9, centered around disability and housing. Articles in this newsletter include “Taking Shelter,” “Know Your Housing Rights,” “Are Institutions are a Thing of the Past?,” “Prohibiting Discrimination Against Voucher Holders,” among others. Doctors, CEOs, and community advocates of all types contributed to the newsletter, which you can find here.

The webinar (available for viewing here) served as an opportunity for writers to expand on their positions and answer questions from the people in attendance. Of particular concern was the workforce shortage of personal care assistants (PCAs), a position I once worked in myself.

Services for people with disabilities have, over time, moved away from institutions and toward individualized in-home care. Part of this has to do with the closure of Laconia State School in 1991, which was originally called New Hampshire School for the Feebleminded. 

Among the disability community, their advocates, and politicians, a consensus has been growing that institutional-type settings and practices can do more harm than good. PCAs exist to offer individuals with disabilities a greater range of choices in how they receive services, and when. Unfortunately, these positions are all funded by non-profit organizations that may not immediately adjust to increased costs which causes a need for increased wages.

Disability RAPP Article
Disability RAPP Spring 2022 newsletter looks at disability and housing.

Almost every PCA position requires a vehicle of some sort – most often to do laundry and/or grocery runs. At other times, hours can be inconsistent as a client’s needs change. Those who continue PCA work in spite of these obstacles do so because they genuinely want to help their clients.

Conversely, impoverished individuals with mental disabilities are often discharged from hospitals onto the street or to the shelter, neither of which is equipped to help them reach a point of stability in life. 

While affordable housing as a component of increased mental health is something not generally a part of the conversation, there can be little doubt that a person with mental illness living in their own house or apartment has more stability and experience fewer stressors than someone living in a tent, never knowing when their property may be stolen or when they might be attacked.

People in their own residences can sleep when they deem necessary, eat the food they choose, and entertain themselves by whatever method seems best to them. Many, if not all, of these comforts are removed when one is homeless. As a result, a mentally disabled person is more likely to experience increased stress which in turn will exacerbate their condition.

Ensuring people have more access to housing, and can keep housing once they have it, not only ensures better outcomes for disabled individuals but for members of the community as well. Those who have their own bathrooms aren’t relieving themselves in back alleys or in someone’s backyard. A person who has somewhere safe to keep their possessions doesn’t feel the need to break into cars after police confiscate or throw away their tents.

This, however, does not mean lease violations or non-payment of rent should be ignored; simply that getting housing should be as easy as buying a television. The more applications and processes a person has to go through in order to obtain stability and security only serves to make it more difficult for people with disabilities to see to their needs and improve themselves in whatever capacity they can.

Individual choice is what’s important. Individual choice is what will lead to the best outcomes for everyone. It is this which must be respected and protected as much as possible. This is why I wrote in the Disability RAPP, participated in the webinar, and why I continue to advocate for people who have nowhere else to turn.


About this Author

Winter Trabex

Winter Trabex is a freelance writer from Manchester and regular contributor to Community Voices.