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Reasons Why Group Homes Create Unfavorable Living Environments for People with Developmental Disabilities

February 10, 2023

In this video, I explore why group homes create an oppressive environment for people with developmental disabilities.

Here are three examples of why group homes do more harm than good:

  1. Lack of Autonomy: Residents often have limited control over their daily lives. Decisions about rules, schedules, and activities are typically made by staff or management, restricting the autonomy of individuals living in the group home.
  2. Living with Strangers: Residents may be required to share living spaces with individuals they don’t know, leading to discomfort, tension, and a lack of a sense of personal space and privacy. This dynamic can contribute to a feeling of being trapped or isolated.
  3. Limited Individualization: Group homes often struggle to provide individualized care and support tailored to the unique needs and preferences of each resident. This lack of customization can hinder personal growth and limit the development of a true sense of belonging.

As an alternative, I suggest considering diverse living options. Challenge conventional thinking and explore possibilities like renting apartments, having roommates, or living independently. Exploring alternatives can lead to more personalized and fulfilling living arrangements for individuals with developmental disabilities.

To learn more, watch the video below where I discuss why group homes are not ideal for individuals with developmental disabilities.

 

P.S. Looking for more strategies to nurture your loved one’s independence? Download my free “7 Strategies for More Independence” guide.

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Written Transcript of the Video:

Hey there, Eric Goll here from Empowering Ability, and I have a question I want you to reflect on: Would you want to live in a place where you’re forced to live with three other strangers, and there are four people working where you live, with high turnover of those people? So, there are new people coming and going, working where you live all the time. Is that a place where you would want to live? I want you to think about that for a minute because I have yet to come across a person that says, “Yes, Eric, that is where I want to live.” So, I doubt that you are that person. Okay, maybe there’s a first year, but you probably guessed that I’m talking about group homes and describing what that actual living situation would look like.

So, here’s the fundamental truth: people with developmental disabilities do not want to live in group homes. People, in general, do not want to live in group homes. So let’s go deeper here. I want you to think about what that living environment would actually feel like. Okay, what would that actually look like? What would that feel like? So first off, you’re forced to live with strangers. These are people you don’t know. So, would you want to live with strangers? And then I want you to add into that, that those strangers have some sort of disability, right? And that disability is going to require some support for some of those needs to be met. Now, when that happens, it means we need more people working more hours in that specific location because there are more needs to be met, right? So there’s going to be more paid support. So, what does this mean in that living situation, right? We’re not only living with strangers; we have paid workers working where we are living, and they’re coming and going all the time. There’s high turnover. There are new people in our home all the time, right? So think about what that feat would feel like to live in that situation.

Also, in that situation, someone else is setting the rules. Someone else is saying, “You can do this, you can’t do that.” And we don’t think about those. We, like, that doesn’t happen in your home, right? In your home, you’re thinking about, “Well, what are the rules that we want to live by?” Right? And maybe you’re negotiating some of that with other people that you live in, but someone else isn’t specifically setting those rules for you. Also, in that group home environment, you have someone always looking over you and someone controlling you. “You can’t do that, okay? You can do this. You have to wait to do that, right? You can’t go there, right? You have to wait till such and such, right? Or you gotta wait till tomorrow or next week, right?” That’s not a natural living situation. So, when you start to think about that environment of living in that group home, it becomes a very controlling, oppressive, stressful situation to be living in.

And when we think about home, I want you to think about this question for a minute. When you think about home, what are the things that you think about? You don’t think about being controlled. You don’t think about living under someone’s rules. You don’t think about living with strangers. That’s not what comes to mind. What comes to mind is, more than likely, home is a place you feel safe. A home is a place you feel free to do what you want. Home is your sanctuary. So, a group home is a very different living situation than what everybody else considers home to be. So, the group home model is broken. It’s oppressive, and it needs to change. Governments need to stop funding group homes because it creates the idea in our minds that the group home model is the only model for people with disabilities, and that’s just not true.

Now you’re probably asking the question, “Well, Eric, what else is there? Right? What’s the solution then?” Well, I want you to think about this as well. So, I want you to think about what that solution is, and the question that I propose to you is, what does everybody else do when thinking about home? What does everybody else do? There isn’t one specific model, right, in terms of living when we’re thinking about what does home look like? We think about many different options, right? Do I want to live in an apartment? Do I want a roommate? Do I not want a roommate? Do I want to live alone? Do I want to live, you know, with family? Do I want to rent a townhome? Do I, where do I want to live, right? We have control, some control and choice over where we’re gonna live as well, right? So, those are the sorts of things that I want us to be thinking about in terms of the solution and thinking about, well, what would be best for that person, right? What’s best for the person with a disability, rather than just thinking about a specific model.

And in closing, that person, with that being the only option, putting them in that enclosed box, so thinking about what’s best for the person, okay? So, we want to be doing that for our loved ones with a developmental disability. So if you’re struggling with this, you’re like, “Well, Eric, like those other things aren’t going to work for my loved one.” I want you to stretch your thinking. So I want, again, if you’re struggling, a starting place can be just to think about what would our loved one, what would it look like for our loved one to live in an apartment? And I know some of you are saying, “Eric, that’s never going to happen.” Okay, if we’re thinking then it’s never gonna happen, guess what? It’s never going to happen. But there’s no harm here in stretching your thinking. So, this is just a thought exercise. I want you to actually think through this. What would it look like for your loved one to live in an apartment, just to rent an apartment, right? So, think about how it could work if our loved one were to live in an apartment, to rent an apartment. How could that work, right? What are the things that our loved one would maybe be doing or would they need to learn? What are the sorts of relationships that our loved one would need to have in their life? What type of supports might our loved one need in their life, paid or otherwise? What type of technology might our loved one be using or leveraging to live in their own apartment, to rent in their own apartment? What type of financial supports might be needed to be put in place? Would our loved one benefit from maybe having a neurotypical roommate or a supportive roommate? What could that potentially look like?

So, as I’m listing things out, maybe this is becoming a little bit more of an option or a possibility, but I want you to go through the actual thinking of what that might potentially look like. And of course, there are many different living situations in just an apartment, but that’s a starting place to start to stretch your thinking a little bit in terms of what’s possible, what would be best for your loved one, because a group home is not best for your loved one. Now, if you’re still like, “Eric, I kind of hear what you’re saying, but you’re not totally buying it, or you’re not totally believing me,” there’s a podcast I want you to listen to. So, I’ll link to it below the video here, and it’s an interview I did with Lynn Siegel, who is the CEO or the executive director of Hope House in Virginia, Virginia, USA. And Hope House used to run group homes, and they had 125 people living in group homes, and they went through this exact thinking that I’m sharing with you in terms of really starting to figure out that that living environment in a group home is not a good living environment for people and how it’s oppressive, controlling, and it’s not a home.

So, they started to think differently, how can we help people create homes? So, they helped these 125 people move out of group homes and into their very own home. So, I want you to go listen to that podcast because I think it’s going to be helpful for you to continue your thinking. So again, it’s linked below, and if you want to continue this thinking with me, I’ve got an upcoming workshop where we’re going to be thinking through how to create an awesome, ordinary life with your loved one, which includes home. So again, I’ve got a link below where you can register for that workshop. It’s totally free, so I invite you to do that. So, I’m Eric Goll. Thanks for watching this video. Feel free to leave a comment below the video here. Love to hear from you. And together, let’s take a small step forward this week.

If you found these strategies helpful, consider subscribing to my channel for more valuable resources. Additionally, for those seeking further guidance on fostering independence in their loved ones, check out my “7 Strategies for More Independence” PDF guide. I’m Eric Goll, and together, let’s take a small step forward toward an awesome, ordinary life.

  • I understand what you’re getting at Goll, but what about the fact that some people with neurological disabilities engage in self injurious behaviors? The supervision and structure provided by group homes helps prevent such self injurious behavior. The group home paradigm is for those people’s own good, and the only other option to keep those who engage in self injurious behavior safe is to immure them in psychiatric hospitals.

    That said, the self injurious types are a small minority of people who have neurological disabilities. For the rest, supported independent living is a better fit, as it gives them the care they need with the freedom they deserve.

  • You’re meant to be your freest when at home, but group homes tend to have kilotons of rules. Residents in most group homes are treated like minors! Like minors, they’re told when to go to bed, when to get up, when and what they can and can’t eat, whether they can wear certain accessories (like hats or jewelry) in the house or not, what place of worship they go to if any, their speech is often heavily restricted (as in ”no cussing”, ”no talking at the table”, etc), residents are typically not allowed outside unsupervised (not even to the home’s backyard), they tend to be forced into day programs and or fast foodretail type jobs (apparently according to group home care providers, those with intellectual and developmental disabilities shouldn’t be allowed to have nice careers or follow their dreams), etc. All this sounds institutional to me!

    I understand there’s a few people whose IDDD make it too dangerous to let them make their own decisions, but most adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities should have as much freedom as the average ”neurotypical” adult, NOT treated like minors! Unless they present a clear danger to themselves andor others, people with developmental and intellectual disabilities should be afforded the same civil liberties as neurotypical people!

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