FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — For those with developmental disabilities, the “transitional” ages from 14-21 are a critical time in which to consider future plans, including housing. A survey was recently sent out to residents who have a family member with developmental disabilities to study what housing options are available in Forsyth County and what is needed.
Laura Brackin of Brackin and Associates, who was hired by the county in January to conduct the survey for $49,421, presented some of the overall findings at the June 23 Board of Commissioners work session.
The survey focused on families in the transitional period, in which those with disabilities are set to age out of schools. The survey showed that 96 percent of residents in the transition period with developmental disabilities in the county live with family members, around 20 percent more than the national average.
Options for affordable housing that are also accessible for those with disabilities are “extremely limited” in the area, Brackin said.
Of 50 public housing units in the county, four were accessible for those with disabilities. While private developments and non-profits provide some residences, there is a waiting list, Brackin said. She added that some families waited five years to get their child into a housing situation, and often it was not the ideal place, just the only one available.
To address the issue, affordable housing needs to be made available in the county, and there should be an increase in rental assistance vouchers, she said. Most of the county’s disabled residents do not work, those that do are mostly part-time employees and their average income was under $1,000 a month the study showed.
There is no “one size fits all” solution for affordable housing, Brackin said, because those with developmental disabilities have a variety of needs.
Providing residences for those with developmental disabilities is only part of assisting the county’s disabled population. Support services must also be offered, she said.
“Just because you create affordable housing, if they don’t have the services to meet their needs, it doesn’t do any good,” Brackin said. “You have to address both at the same time.”
The aging of family members who act as caretakers is another reason to address the issue.
Of those responding to the survey, 21 percent were over the age of 60 and nearly two-thirds were between 45- to 59 years old.
Brackin said many shared the fear that after they died, their loved ones would be placed in “host homes” she described as adult foster care and would be “pushed from home to home.”
Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills suggested officials be presented with some initial steps the county could take to address housing for its developmentally disabled residents and create an “action plan.”
At least one local group is seeking to assist in the cause. Keystone Village is a nonprofit group that envisioned and has planned a residential community in the county for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The neighborhood would provide permanent housing for those with varying levels of needs, including those who are “high functioning” to persons needing continuous care.
Keystone Village co-founders Beth Burns and Tammy Miller spoke at the June 23 work session and said the group has “a lot of momentum and support” and hopes to become a “model for the state.”