Types of community living options and residential models

Supported Living:  Provides residential services to adults with developmental disabilities who are able to live in self-owned or leased homes in the community. Programming and instruction are directed by the consumer, not the program.  Much emphasis in on community integration.  Staff may help with some assistance in daily living; may help hire and fire staff.  Supported living models may be more suited for individual with an established repertoire of life skills and those who do not engage in significant levels of challenging behavior.

Supervised Living: A residential model designed to provide services with greater oversight and direction than might be provided in a supported living context, but less than a group home. Homes may be self-owned or leased, usually with one or two adults with ASD per residence, there may be a number of such residences scattered though out the building or housing complex, allowing for greater staff accessibility oversight.  Crisis support is available 24 hours/day.  Daily schedules are generally provided, with input from the individual consumer, and staff is available to provide direct instruction or support.

Group Homes:  Provides residential services in more typical homes in the community setting. Ownership of the house usually lies with the provider agency, as do staffing decisions.  Most have fewer than  6-8 consumers living in one residence and in most states, there is a recent trend where developmental disabilities service systems will not provide funding support for group homes who house more than, three four consumers.  A primary goal of group home living is to promote increasingly greater levels of independence in the residents.  As such, instruction in daily living and self help skills including meal preparation, laundry, housecleaning, home maintenance, money management, hygiene, and showering, dressing and appropriate social interactions are provided by agency staff.  Staff may be trained in behavior management interventions.

Farmstead Program: A residential model set within the context of a working farm. While isolated by nature farmstead programs endeavor to meet the complex needs of adults with ASD and other developmental disabilities through the development of individually designed instructional programs focused on farm living. Vocational training is generally limited to farm-related work (e.g., horticulture, greenhouse management, woodworking, animal care, landscaping, etc.) although other opportunities may be available in nearby communities. Residents work along with staff at tasks relevant to the care and maintenance of the grounds and the farm. There is often little in the way of community integration or community based-instruction and life skill instruction is generally provided relevant only to those skills associated with life within the farmstead community. Bittersweet Farms, in Whitehouse, Ohio was the first Farmstead Program for people with ASD established in the United States and remains the most widely recognized model for this, very specific, category of residential services.

Teaching Family Model: A specialized model of group home service provision where usually a married couple lives in the house in separate quarters rent-free and provides supervision to other members of the treatment team and direct service to residents. 

Shared Equity Models – Co-ops and Co-housing

Shared equity models are important to learn about, when considering the option of developing your own housing for a small group. Most of us are however unfamiliar with these options, so it is necessary to seek consultation from organizations who can guide us through the options and details. One very good organization with expertise in this area is The NCB: Capital Impact works to empower low to moderate income communities and creates access to capital and technical assistance increasing:

- Shared Equity Homeownership
- Community-Based Long-Term Supports Innovations

They have an excellent manual called Home Base: The Playbook for Cooperative Development which lays out a full understanding of the basics of cooperatives, and provides a step by step process for developing co-ops.

NCP Capital Impact integrates their efforts with Community Development Corporations and Community Based Organizations, government agencies, investors and foundations. Their mission is pulling together private and public resources to fully leverage resources for the communities we serve.  They have worked extensively with the Department of Developmental Disabilities in Maryland, but provide assistance on a national level.

These are some models that they offer expert technical assistance in:

The underlying components of cohousing include optimal community engagement, communal design features, resident management, common facilities, private multifamily units, lessened impact on infrastructure and lower energy costs. Cohousing units are generally more affordable than conventional housing units due to the multifamily nature of units, but also because a core component to cohousing is to control costs. Cohousing units tend to be studio, 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom units. Buildings are clustered, and therefore use less land. Shared utilities or facilities, like shared water or gas mains and laundry facilities, utilize less energy.

As cohousing is resident-led, volunteer groups may be established to provide aid to seniors while certain services may be conducted by contracted service providers. Cohousing designed for people with disabilities and seniors may pay more attention to ease of access for all levels of physical ability and incorporate universal design elements. Cohousing communities may include optional studio residences in or near the common house to provide living quarters for service provides/home health aides, allowing for partial or full 24-hour services provision.

Limited Equity/Shared Equity Housing Cooperative
You may also want to consider a limited or shared equity housing cooperative for the project. This would provide an opportunity for people with autism and the moderate/low income direct care workers to come together to cooperatively own a multi-family building. By forming a cooperative there is a shared ownership structure that can provide limited equity to perpetuate affordable housing and community living options for a variety of populations. You may want to look at consumer controlled housing models found in Minnesota -

Community Land Trusts (CLTs)
CLTs are membership-based non-profit organizations that own the land under the housing in order to preserve affordability of these homes for future residents. I am not certain if CLTs can be owned/operated by a government entity but I don't see why the state couldn't be a member of the organization to preserve the use of the land for affordable community living. This model provides a long term lease or in some cases covenants on the title of the housing property to ensure the CLT is consulted and involved every time a home is sold. This model could be used in conjunction with both the Cooperative and Co-housing models but you would want to get a consultant to advise you of the best structure to maximize ownership and control by the residents.