Upper Valley organization offers supportive housing toolkit

Resource guide is designed for families of adults with developmental disabilities

An online technical assistance tool designed for parents and community members interested in developing permanent supportive housing options for adults with developmental disabilities has been published by the Enfield-based Visions for Creative Housing Solutions.

Sylvia Dow, executive director of the organizations said the motivation behind the creation of the New Hampshire Supportive Housing Toolkit is the growing need in the state for residential options for adults with developmental disabilities.

For example, she said, when was launched in 2014 there were six residents at its Sunrise Farm House in Enfield. The organization currently serves 10 residents and plans are underway for expansion into Lebanon, where an additional 10 people will be served. With a waiting list of 25 and inquiries received regularly from parents and people with disabilities themselves, Visions can’t possibly begin to serve everyone in need of its services, she said.

She said the toolkit – a free, online resource and supported through a $50,000 Emerging Opportunities Grant from the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority – is the first in the nation aimed at educating and empowering family members and others who may be new to real estate development, affordable housing financing, and the adult services world.

“People with disabilities want the same things that any of us do as adults,” said Dow, a parent of the two women who inspired the Visions model. “They want to work, to participate in community activities, to choose who they live and spend time with and to have the opportunity to engage in activities they enjoy. At Visions we make that possible.”

The toolkit was created by principal author Ben Sahl, former legal director of the Disability Rights Center-NH, and contributing author Liz Nickerson of Nickerson Development Services Inc.

Sahl is the parent of a daughter with significant disabilities and has advocated in favor of expanding opportunities for integrated community living for individuals with developmental disabilities since 2012.

According to Sahl, the toolkit “is designed to provide an overview of the elements involved in developing a supportive housing. It is written for anyone with an interest and does not assume knowledge about, or experience with, housing development, capital finance, public benefits, the adult services system, or any other piece of the supportive housing puzzle.”

He cautioned, though, that the toolkit “is not a recipe for supportive housing. Our hope is that it provides enough of an understanding of the entire development process for others to determine whether to pursue a similar model, and for those who do to be as prepared as possible for what is ahead.”

The toolkit can be accessed here. For further information, contact Dow at 603-632-7707 or vfchsorg@gmail.com.

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