Searching for a Roommate: Medicaid Waiver style| Part 7
This is Part 7 in a series of posts about moving my son Aaron, who has the label of autism, from one county to the adjoining county where we live. If you want the background click on Searching for a Roommate: Medicaid Waiver Style| Part 6
I can’t say enough good things about both the HUD counselors in the sending and the receiving counties. They are terrific and I feel they are rooting for us, and hoping Aaron can find a place to live which will accept his housing choice voucher, an appropriate roommate with matching Medicaid Waivers for quality residential care, and a happy life.
What a blessing.
That said, we filed for the time extension and learned that for an uninterrupted rent subsidy to go through, our letter, the letters from the receiving county, and the landlord had to be filed by the 20th of the month and I would need to go to their office to sign the papers. So, still some work to do, but at least now I know the rules.
In Part 6, I told about our meetings with the first proposed roommate and his parents. Here is our meeting with Roommate #2.
Roommate #2: Van into houses
We scheduled the visit to Potential Roommate #2’s house on a lovely evening. We parked the car and waved to the neighbors who were watering flowers and taking out the trash cans. They seemed friendly, but were clearly checking us out.
Aaron, Tom and I arrived about 7:pm and met Barney, a young man in his early 20’s, his parents, the head of the agency that provided the residential care, her elderly mother, and a college student who was the staff person on duty. The DD Support Coordinator who was assigned to this house was not able to come, but since the clock is ticking we wanted to move forward and he arranged the visit.
Former Roommate Andy
Everyone was pleasant and they told us they were very anxious to find a roommate because Andy, the previous roommate, did not work out. Apparently, Andy was dual diagnosed with some mental health as well as intellectual disability labels and he took the staff’s car keys, started the van and drove into two houses on the street. (No wonder the neighbors were so intense.)
So, Andy no longer lived there.
Well, okay, after that story we figured Aaron would be a breeze.
Parents believe in Segregation
Barney’s mother said she taught in the local school district and was proud they were going to start “Autism Only” classes next year.
The Dad told us he was very active in Special Olympics.
We had been told Barney liked sports, so we brought him a Starting Lineup Figure so Aaron and Barney would have a positive first interaction of Aaron giving something to Barney.
Barney likes to fish
One of the first questions we were asked was if Aaron liked to fish. In the back of the house was a fishing lake and Barney spent much of his free time standing on the side of the lake.
Barney didn’t like all the people in his living room and seemed quite anxious. When the staff person opened the back door, Barney shot down to the lake.
Tom, Aaron and I went in the backyard and noticed the yard sloped down toward the lake, there were no fences, and the weeds were very tall. Immediately, we worried that Aaron, who has terrible balance issues and often wanders off, would fall down into the lake. Based on our previous experience with inexperienced, lazy staff, and their story about Andy smashing the van into houses and almost killing himself, we wondered how safe Aaron would be.
Parents Own the House
The house was owned by Barney’s parents.
His mom apologized for the way the house looked so beat up and explained that as soon as the school year was over she planned on painting and doing a deep cleaning in the house. The parents also did all the lawn care which also needed some attention. This made us feel a little better because the rugs were stained, and the whole place just didn’t look clean.
The house was a traditional two-story with a kitchen, ½ bath, and combined dining/living area on the first floor. Three bedrooms and 2 baths up.
There were not really enough chairs for everyone, and the elderly woman was sitting in a broken reclining chair.
The upstairs had a master suite (bed and bath) that Barney used (which was filthy and cluttered). There was another bath and two additional bedrooms which were nice. The closet was full size, not as large as Aaron’s current closet, but at least the clothes would fit on the hanger, you didn’t have to hang the clothes sidewise like the closet in rural house #1.
There was a large hole in the wall at the top of the stairs. We were told Andy, the old roommate, had punched the wall, and again, after school was out, they would be repainting and repairing the wall.
Aaron was noisy, but as we were sizing up how he and Barney might get along, they were also sizing us up. We got the feeling they were hoping for someone who was higher functioning, and someone who would want to spend long periods of time at the fishing lake with Barney. Neither Barney nor Aaron spoke any words but they would watch each other.
We told them we had concerns about the stairs and the fishing lake. We told them Aaron gets sunburn in about 10 minutes (he has red hair, is very fair, and has a family history of skin cancer).
Aaron’s ISP (Individual Service Plan) requires a staff person to always be within hearing distance of Aaron and he would NEVER be allowed to be outside alone. The head of the residential company assured us she would be able to hire staff, Aaron would never be alone and this was doable.
The parents were actively involved in Barney’s life, but Barney didn’t go home for the weekends like Aaron. He stayed at the house all the time, except Christmas and special occasions.
We also learned that Andy, the old roommate had a HUD housing choice voucher. The father told us he accepted the HUD and got the house HUD approved, but his son couldn’t get the rent discount because of the “parents owning the house rule.” He did say the county paid a “rent subsidy” out of county “bridge” funds.
We had a pleasant conversation and both families were to go home and think about it.
The mother walked us to the car, and as we pulled away, both neighbors came to talk with her. I’m guessing they were as worried about the new roommate (Aaron) as we were worried about them. If someone drove a van into my house, I’d want to check out the new roommate too!
This decision was not as clear cut as our previous visit to house #1. Aaron didn’t give us any feedback, positive or negative, so we debated the pros and cons.
Ultimately, we called the family and told them we didn’t think this was going to work for Aaron.
We were just not confident about the supervision of the residential company (and there can only be one company for the whole house) and we had concerns about the stairs and the lake.
One visit was really not enough to tell how Barney and Aaron would get along, but we decided to keep looking.
The other take-away is that once again, the family owned the house but didn’t maintain it as well as Tom and I would expect. I’m not sure how the family would accept our help to plant flowers and pull weeds. They were very proud of it, just the way it was, holes in walls, dirty carpet, broken furniture was just the way things were and would get fixed someday.
I didn’t want to have to worry about “normalization” and “social role valorization” and our house being the worst on the street. With their philosophical bent toward segregated “autism only classes” and “special olympics” I just didn’t think it would work.
The information about a person with a disability being able to use his HUD housing choice voucher in another parent’s home was an interesting idea and one we might be able to use later.
So, strike 2. The next post will be about visit #3. Wait until you hear some of the surprises.
Any thoughts? I love for you to share your stories in the comments and social media.
So, do you think parents owning the house is a good/bad idea? Would it make a difference if Aaron was in the home first and he got to choose the second person? Should we be looking to a non-profit to own the homes? A traditional landlord? Can we trust the residential company when the previous person had enough time to start the van and run it into two houses?
Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward.
All my best,