by Sheryl Soukup, Executive Director, Residential Options of Florida
RESIDENTIAL OPTIONS OF FLORIDA (ROOF) HAS MADE SOME BIG CHANGES IN THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS.
At the beginning of our existence we sought to be a source of housing information, resources, and referrals to those with developmental disabilities and their families and service providers across the state.
We’re so much more than that now. ROOF began in 2014 with a mission to empower individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to successfully obtain and maintain affordable and inclusionary housing of their choice.
While the mission remains the same, in 2017 ROOF made a big shift when the Board decided to focus on developing new affordable housing opportunities for this difficult to serve population.
People with disabilities face two main challenges in securing a safe and stable home in the community. First, people with disabilities often rely on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) as their only source of income. At $771 per month, SSI provides a safety net. However, people living on SSI find it challenging to find a home that they can afford.
Since housing is considered affordable when the resident pays no more than 30% of their gross income for their housing costs, someone on SSI can afford $231 per month. When was the last time you saw a rental home advertised for $231 in Collier County?
The second main challenge is in securing support services. People with disabilities can live independently in the community when they have the right support services in place to assist them. Supported living services can help adults with disabilities develop independent living skills such as budgeting, paying bills, shopping, cooking, cleaning, and caring for their home.
Unfortunately, in Florida, we have a large waiting list for people who are eligible for these services. Even for those who are approved for immediate service delivery, the low payrate for direct care workers in the industry has created a shortage of workers. Therefore, people with disabilities may experience significant delays in getting their services in place due to staffing shortages.
To meet these challenges, ROOF has begun to create supported living homes in communities in different areas of Florida, including Collier County.
Homes created by ROOF are rented to individuals with developmental disabilities, and rents are affordable even for residents who rely on SSI.
To accomplish this, ROOF established Florida’s first statewide Community Land Trust which is being leveraged to develop and steward affordable housing on behalf of the community.
ROOF has recently completed its third home. Two of the homes are in Immokalee, one in Port Charlotte, and plans are underway for additional units in other areas of Southwest Florida, including Naples and Cape Coral, as well as other counties around the state.
Lives are already being changed, but we’re hoping to do more. The ROOF Housing Trust is working to provide a solution foraging parents of adult children with disabilities who want to have their loved one continue to live in their home after they are unable to care for them or pass away.
Parents can designate through the donation of their home that their adult child with a disability can remain in the home for the rest of their life. When he or she passes away, the home would remain with ROOF Housing Trust to provide affordable housing for others with developmental disabilities.
The cycle would continue in perpetuity.
We are always looking for new leaders and guidance. If you’re interested in joining our Board of Directors in the Florida county you live in, visit www.flroof.org for more information.