Lisa’s Housing Story
Lisa’s Housing Story
This blog post is part of a series about housing. Many Californians face barriers to housing, such as the high cost of rent and the lack of physically accessible units. We are interviewing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities about their experiences, preferences, and aspirations around housing. Through this series, you can see both challenges specific to people with I/DD and broader challenges related to housing that people with I/DD experience, too.
If you want to share your story or get involved with our housing advocacy work, you can fill out this form: https://forms.disabilityrightsca.org/a/housing-blog
Lisa Cooley is a disability advocate in Sacramento, California. She is active in several different disability groups statewide, including the Statewide Self-Advocacy Network.
Q: Lisa, how did you first get involved in housing advocacy?
A: I got involved in housing advocacy because I participated in a program put on by the Kelsey called Raise the Roof. Raise the Roof trains people with developmental and other disabilities related to housing and housing advocacy and how to improve it for those of us with developmental and other disabilities.
Q: What were some of your takeaways from that program?
A: Housing needs to be improved for those of us that have intellectual and developmental disabilities. There needs to be an increased amount of not only affordable and accessible housing but also housing that is inclusive and not segregated and separated for people who have disabilities.
Q: What is important to you personally with housing?
A: What's important to me is having housing that's affordable and accessible and integrated into the community.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about what your housing situation is right now?
A: I live with my family, which I am very happy with, but someday I want to live independently with supports in place, so I can be more independent.
Q: What does your dream housing situation look like?
A: It's sort of like a subdivision where I know most of my neighbors. And I'm able to come and go in my housing as much as I’d like, with the help of maybe a ramp. Somewhere near family and somewhere that's reasonably walkable, as far as having curb cuts and sidewalks that are easy to navigate. Close to parks and supermarkets and services.
Q: What are some of the things you like and don't like about your housing situation right now?
A: I like the size of my house. I don’t like the fact that there are thresholds to get in and out of the house.
Q: Can you say a little bit about why independence is important to you or how your life might look the same or different if you lived independently in the future?
A: I would be able to do more things, like maybe go out to community parks near my neighborhood.
Living independently would be an extension of my life because I would be able to do more traveling and more advocacy in different areas, especially on the federal level.
I think that some of it is motivated by the fact that my parents are getting older and even though they're healthy older people, you never know. You never know about your parents. And living independently, with family or with family nearby, would just give me extra peace of mind.
Q: Are there any barriers to living independently that you're facing right now?
A: The cost of rent.
Also, a lack of a rental history has kept me from being able to rent the apartment I want to rent. Most apartment complexes require tenants to have previous rental history before renting a new apartment.
Q: Lisa, you are an amazing advocate because you connect your personal experience to broader issues in the community. Can you say a little bit more about how your experience connects to these big issues?
A: More affordable and inclusive housing, but especially affordable housing, would free people up financially because they wouldn't have to worry about how the rent is getting paid every month.
Another thing is, consider reducing the reliance on good credit for rental housing because, depending on income levels, I think that most people who have developmental or intellectual disabilities don’t have good credit, or, if they do, they wonder how they can pay off their debt every month.
Q: Anything else you want to share about housing?
A: I think the other part of housing that needs to be improved is, and I didn't bring this up earlier, but I just thought about it now is accessibility.
What accessibility means to me is that I'm able to get in and out of a house without having to deal with unnecessary steps or thresholds. Because some housing, especially subdivision housing, has houses with either one or two steps, or several steps. And then once you get up to the steps, there's a threshold.
And I think the home buying process needs to be a whole lot easier for people that have intellectual and developmental and other disabilities. I think there are barriers to home buying that no one has thought about or talked about.