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Disability

Meet Marvin Dawkins: Peer Outreach Specialist, Peer Mentor

Marvin Dawkins, Peer Outreach Specialist and Peer Mentor
Marvin Dawkins, Peer Outreach Specialist and Peer Mentor at The IMAGE Center for People with Disabilities

Marvin made three attempts to leave the nursing facility before he was able to move to his own home in the community. There were many difficulties and complications along the way.

At first, the court told Marvin his income was too high to qualify for services in the community through the waiver program. The second time he tried to leave the nursing facility, he was on a waiting list for three years, but never received services. The third time was a charm, Marvin said, and he finally received a voucher that allowed him to move into his own home in the community. His persistence paid off at last, and he was on his way to moving into his own apartment.

Once he was in his own apartment in the community, he encountered problems with accessibility. Marvin had to advocate for himself with property management to get these problems fixed.

One day, after Marvin left his apartment, he realized he left something there that he needed, but his aide had already left for the day. Marvin returned to his apartment to retrieve his belongings, but then he realized something – he had no way to get out of his apartment on his own, because there was no electric door opener. He was stuck. Marvin wrote a letter to the property manager about the problem, and 3 months later his electric door opener was installed, as well as an accessible showering system in his bathroom. Again, Marvin’s self-advocacy paid off.

During an interview, Marvin had some advice to offer others who are interested in moving out of a nursing facility and into the community:

“You have to really want it – to go after it and get it – otherwise you are going to be frustrated because everybody has things that come up and problems they are going to run into. You have to really want it.”

Marvin encourages people to make careful decisions about where they will move to:

“I tell people to insist to see the place before you move into it. There are certain things you need to make sure you can do with a disability or using a wheelchair; you need to be able to open the refrigerator door all the way, and you might not be able to even though the apartment says it’s accessible. A lot of the places just put a grab bar in the tub and call it accessible even though it isn’t. I know people who have lived for years without taking an actual shower – they just washed off instead because the bath wasn’t accessible to them.”

Marvin is appreciative of all the people who helped him before and after his transition to the community:

“I met a lot of helpful people out there. I couldn’t have done it on my own. Some of these people were support counselors or supports planners – they can help you the most because they know all the problems everyone else has had.”

Marvin also worked with The IMAGE Center during his transition into the community. Crystal Brockington was Marvin’s Peer Support Specialist and, after he moved out of the nursing facility, Crystal was also his Peer Mentor, with additional assistance from Lori Baskette. With encouragement from The IMAGE Center, Marvin participated in committees with the Long-Term Care Ombudsman and eventually the National Consumer Voice. Marvin currently works part-time at The IMAGE Center as a Peer Outreach Specialist and Peer Mentor, visiting residents of nursing facilities and coaching them on their options for receiving services in the community. Marvin also volunteers for Public Service Consultants to do additional peer outreach work.

“It’s rewarding – people cry [tears of joy] at the prospect of being able to leave [the nursing facility],” Marvin said. “Being out gives you a sense of self-worth that you lose in the nursing facility. The longer you’re there, the more everything just drops down – your morale, and everything you look forward to. There are so many things I can’t do, so I don’t ever think about those things – I just think about the things I can do and I try to do those things.”

Marvin has worked with residents in about 12 nursing facilities in Baltimore City, and he has helped over 100 people apply for waiver programs to receive services in the community. He is passionate about helping others to realize their potential for greater independence.

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Categories
Disability

Housing and Disability

Kathryn Wallace

As an Independent Living Specialist, part of my job is to have Information and Referral sessions with consumers. During these sessions, the consumer talks about an issue they are having at the moment, and are seeking some resources to help solve the issue that they might be having.

The most common reason people call for is affordable, accessible housing. We have consumers that call in, asking for housing to accommodate for a wheelchair or a walker on a regular basis. Consumers that are asking for accessible housing usually ask for a unit that has a flat entrance, an elevator or wide doorways/hallways.

Unfortunately, the issue is, there isn’t enough affordable, accessible housing. If there was accessible housing, typically it’s units available in senior housing apartments. Most of the time, the consumers that I speak to are uneasy with the idea of moving into senior housing, just to gain access to a flat entrance or an elevator. This is completely understandable, especially if the consumer is someone who is in their 30s or 40s and doesn’t want to be the youngest person in the entire building.

When there is affordable, accessible housing for people who are under the age of 62, there often comes a waiting list. This waitlist can span from a couple of months to a couple of years, depending on demand and who is on the list. I always recommend to my consumers to not be discouraged if they see or hear the word “waitlist.” I recommend to consumers to place themselves on the waitlist, and to check-in periodically. It’s always better to be on a list, then to not. Also, I have found that sometimes the waitlist may not be updated regularly, so it still helps to contact the realty company of the property.

 

General Tips for Finding Accessible, Affordable Housing

I like to go over housing options with consumers, because one of the biggest rules when it comes to finding accessible housing is to be flexible. Often times, I would have to ask my consumers to consider moving to other parts of the county/city. If there are little to no accessible units that are available in an idealistic zipcode, and the ones that are available have a long waitlist, then I really encourage people to reconsider their area.

One of the housing options that I like to educate consumers on is homesharing, that is, living and renting a room in someone else’s home, and be in a “roommate situation.” Often times, as soon as mention the word “homeshare”, consumers immediately say “no” and insist on living in their own place. Unfortunately “homeshare” may come with a bad reputation for being in a living situation where there just isn’t any compatibility with a roommate. Homesharing should be a consideration for people who want affordable housing, and sometimes, these units may have accessibility depending on the needs of the person. When you share a home with someone it can really cut down on rent and utility expenses, and make your ideal area to live, more of a reality.

I use an online database that is available for everyone, which is mdhousingsearch.org. This website provides a listing of potential affordable housing available in Maryland. There is also a separate listing for potential apartments that have accessible features, such as elevators, minimal steps, roll-in bathrooms and grab bars. Again, usually the accessible searches that I perform come up with senior housing, which many of these units only allow people who are aged 62 and over. However, I would suggest searching under the “eligible disabled” category. Some senior housing complexes offer units that are available for younger people with disabilities. Some accessible apartment/townhome units can also be found, and may not be senior housing, but it would depend on what the consumer needs.

 

Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8)

I wanted to do some research on local affordable housing in our service area for Baltimore County, Baltimore City and Harford County. Recently, there was a case in which the Baltimore County Government voted against the development of affordable homes that would accept the section 8 housing choice voucher. This vote would not allow funding for Homes for America, a non-profit affordable housing organization, to build several units in the Rosedale area. Allegedly, this proposal was turned down because there was negative feedback from the community. The community had concerns that adding voucher-approved homes would cause an increase in the amount of crime, as well as crowding schools. (source: Baltimore Sun) It’s really sad that there continues to be a strong stigma against voucher holders.

There is a new campaign that recently started to try to remove the stigma associated with having a housing choice voucher. The Consider the Person campaign aims at increasing awareness of the housing voucher system and the people who hold these vouchers. The website contains general information on the housing voucher, local news related to the HCV, and personal accounts from people who hold vouchers. This would help the general public understand that just because an individual or family possess a voucher, does not mean that there is an increased amount of crime or disturbance in the neighborhood. (Source: Consider the Person)

It is a myth that people who hold a voucher are going to increase the level of crime and disturbance in a neighborhood. This is simply untrue, especially because most voucher holders know that if they do commit crime or disturbances, their voucher privileges are in danger. Once an individual loses their voucher, their voucher may never come back. There have been reports about disturbances or property damage in the neighborhood, and often times the perpetrators that commit these crimes are often assumed to be voucher holders. However, only a very small amount of these perpetrators are people who actually hold a voucher.  (Source: Consider the Person)

I’ve been to meetings where the topic is creating affordable housing, but there just isn’t enough advocacy for affordable, accessible housing. I’m hoping that, eventually, there will be more advocacy from the community to provide accessible housing. I encourage people who want more affordable, accessible housing to attend local public meetings about housing and let your voice be heard.