What It Is Like To Live In Group Homes For Adults with Disabilities?

February 8, 2024

When you have a loved one with a developmental disability, you are often told that a group home is the standard (or the best) choice – and sometimes, it feels like the only choice. It can be confusing and a bit overwhelming, especially when a group home does not feel like the right fit for your loved one.

Let me tell you a story…

When Chris moved into a group home with three other people, he was promised a good life. But instead he found himself trapped in a place where he couldn’t even make the most basic decisions: who to live with, what to eat, or even when to take a walk.

Watch the short video below to get Chris’s full story:

Loosing control of their life is a shared by many people who live in group homes. It’s a reality where the freedom to choose is taken away, and independence feels like a distant dream. It is heartbreaking.

The Real Situation in Group Homes for Adults with Disabilities

Chris’ story paints a vivid picture of the challenges within group homes.

It’s not just about the lack of control…

…it’s about the loss of freedom, the absence of choice, and the yearning for a sense of belonging.

Seeking a Better Option For Your Loved One

You would not settle for a life where choices are made for you.

And neither should your loved one.

There are other options and alternatives that prioritize personal preferences, respect unique choices, and encourage a sense of independence, which I discuss in my free Life Planning 101 Guide here.

This guide will provide the tools and resources to create a future where your loved one’s voice matters and their dreams are honored. It will help you guide your loved one towards building a fulfilling, independent life tailored to their unique needs and preferences.

One of the key elements of this guide is finding a home of their own, which can be transformative for their sense of independence and belonging.

So, take the first step towards creating a brighter future for your loved one and download my free guide today.


Chris wakes up startled, sitting straight up in his bed, horrified as screams ring through the walls. His heart almost jumps right out of his chest as he realizes that it’s his roommate across the hallway, and this is the fourth time this week that this has happened. He’s exhausted, but he can’t get back to sleep because those screams are ringing in his head. So, he just rolls out of bed, opens his door, walks down the hallway to the kitchen, and makes a coffee in the Keurig machine. He’s about to take that first delicious sip when he’s startled by a voice behind him. The voice says, “Hey, you can’t be down here in your underwear, and you certainly can’t be using the coffee maker; you haven’t even been trained on it yet.”

This nightmare started a week ago when Chris first moved into the group home with three other guys he only briefly met on a house tour. Chris didn’t choose to live this life; he was told it was going to be best for him. He also was told that it was his only option. When he was told that he would be moving into a house with new roommates, all of whom have a disability, he wasn’t told that he would never be able to do all of these things. He was never told that he wouldn’t be able to choose who he wanted to live with, who entered or didn’t enter his house through the front door. He wasn’t told that he wouldn’t be able to choose what he wanted to eat and when he wanted to eat. He wasn’t told that he wouldn’t be able to choose if he could go for a walk around the block without being supervised. He wasn’t told that he wouldn’t be able to go out with his friends when and where he wanted to. He wasn’t told that he was going to have to abide by quiet hours and when they were. And he definitely didn’t choose to lose two hours of sleep for the fourth time in a week. He also didn’t choose that he couldn’t make himself a coffee in the morning any longer like he always had. And he definitely didn’t choose that he couldn’t walk around his house in his underwear. Chris didn’t choose to lose control of his life by living in a group home, but this was the only option that was presented to Chris.

Let’s be honest, you would not make a choice for yourself to be living in this environment either. There’s better, and you have other options. So, a group home is not the best place for people with developmental disabilities to live. Your loved one deserves better, and here’s the good thing: there are alternatives, and those alternatives are becoming more prevalent.

Yes, it’s going to take some more work to explore those alternatives and to implement those alternatives potentially. There are going to be some hurdles or barriers that you need to jump over, but ultimately, it’s worth it because those alternatives, like creating an individualized home that’s absolutely best for your loved one, are worth it.

Now, I don’t have time in this short video to go into those alternatives, but what you can start thinking about now, you might be asking, well, what are the alternatives to a group home for a person that has a developmental disability or autism? Well, what are all the options that are available for people to live? There are lots of them. Check out my free Life Planning 101 Guide to learn more.

  • Quite frankly, group home residents clients are basically inmates in all but title. The only differences being the lack of prison mental facility type security features (like razor wire fencing), and the fact that they can usually wear their own clothes rather than a prison uniform (although group homes often have dress codes).

  • There’s multiple potential options available if the agencies and other organizations tasked with helping people with neurological disabilities move out of their parents’ place would consider such options

    One is a supported independent living community, which is like senior assisted living except that it caters to younger adults and usually offers training. In this arrangement, each resident gets a private suite or cottage, or shares it with a single roommate, and has more freedom than in group homes.

    Supportive roommates are potentially another option. This arrangement allows clients to live virtually anywhere they can afford (whether that be an apartment, house, one of those portable tiny homes, an RVtravel trailer, etc), although with today’s runaway inflation, affording a standard apartment or house is increasingly difficult (what with the average rent or mortgage payment being several thousand dollars per month, utilities in the hundreds a month, food being several hundred a week, etc), but there could be ways of making it work.

    Training with ADLs, if someone with a neurological disability can easily learn most activities of daily living (that is, the routine tasks of self care, home maintenance and social financial competency), there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to live somewhere by themselves or with a typical roommate or two.

    But of course, social services organizations are not likely to touch any of those alternatives with a ten foot pole, as anything government run has to be one-size-fits-all,hence why the group home paradigm is the only one they offer. Thus it’s important if possible to research organizations that specialize in these non group home options, though finding them is a lot like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack, as they’re few and far between.

  • A lot of staff at group homes really don’t care about the people with disabilities living there . The staff like to the power over the people living there

  • I think group homes are a joke . I just think adults with disabilities should either live with family or friends

    • What if they don’t want to live with their parents and they have few, if any friends with decent housing?

  • When you come to think of it, group homes aren’t that much different from a structural and organizational standpoint from the asylums they’ve largely replaced. In both types of residential facility, there’s almost no freedom to choose anything. The rules are usually rather strict, (often very similar to the rules most traditional parents impose on children) and almost every aspect of group home inmates lives is planned for them by the management of the group home.

    The message with group homes is rather clear to me, adults with neurological disabilities are really children in grown-up bodies and thus should not have the liberties most other adults enjoy. If you ask me, people with neurological disabilities deserve the same freedoms as neurotypicals unless it’s proven beyond reasonable doubt that those people can’t be trusted with those liberties.

    • “Inmates” is probably a somewhat accurate term for group home residents, given that they’re seldom given even an ounce of control over their own lives!!

  • So looks like no peer matching done obviously.
    Chris would be eligible for living on his own with a supportive roommate.

  • How the group home model is structured is a lot like that of the lunatic asylums that they replaced. Just about the only notable things that changed when care for those with neurological disabilities transitioned from the 19th century asylums to the modern group home paradigm are the old torture “treatments” are gone by and large, and the format of the buildings. The way group homes are structured is also rather infantilizing, with much the same rules that children are usually subjected to. Outside of the bigger institutions ( and living with one’s parents), it’s really only the group home model that has resident dress codes, stringent schedules for everyone, no say over what to eat, requiring the permission of an administrator supervisor to go to the shared spaces of the property like the kitchen and yard, etc. In all other non-institutional adult housing arrangements, residents are given kilotons of leeway as to what to wear when at home, when and what to eat, when to take a bath or shower, where to go on the property and when ( except other people’s bedrooms in the cases of standard roommate situations), etc.

    Honestly, if someone isn’t a grave danger to themselves or others, and they’re an adult, they should have basic freedoms to make those decisions for themselves, regardless of whether they have a neurological disability or not! We really should get beyond the mindset that says neurologically disabled adults can only live with their parents or in group homes!

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