by Sheryl Soukup, Executive Director, Residential Options of Florida
The road to independence is not easy. Take the case of Thomas (name changed for privacy). Thomas has an intellectual disability that makes it difficult for him to do things that people without disabilities often take for granted.
He has trouble recognizing when someone is taking advantage of him. He has difficulty managing his finances and paying bills. He doesn’t always understand things that are apparent to others. He needs more time to learn things, and he needs things explained in simple terms.
Thomas does complete many tasks independently, but he needs people who understand how he learns to teach him how to be safe and to help him learn how to take care of himself and his home on his own.
With the right supports, Thomas has the ability to live independently in the community.
That’s where Residential Options of Florida (ROOF) comes in. ROOF develops new affordable housing opportunities for those with developmental disabilities. ROOF helps adults like Thomas who need affordable housing along with supports that help them live safely in the community.
When ROOF met Thomas he had a job, but he soon found himself homeless when a couple who claimed to be his “friends” took advantage of him by convincing him to give his paychecks to them. In exchange they allowed him to sleep on their couch.
Once they had taken all of Thomas’ money, they locked him out of their home. After repeated attempts to get back into the home to retrieve his belongings, Thomas resorted to sleeping in an abandoned house, and then eventually in an emergency shelter.
ROOF wanted to help Thomas but knew that he needed support to be successful in a home of his own. Thomas had health insurance, but the type of plan he was on would not provide the support services he needed.
ROOF helped Thomas change his health plan and find a support provider. ROOF met with Thomas multiple times and showed him how to make the many calls required to change his health plan and apply for services.
ROOF representatives modeled for Thomas how to advocate for his needs and provided him with support to set up his own services.
Not only did Thomas learn independent living skills (namely, how to make phones calls to agencies, fill out paperwork, and set up appointments for himself), he also learned about self determination. He learned that he can choose his own health plan and his own support service provider, and that he can actually choose the individual the agency sends to provide his care. He also is able to choose how to spend his own money, where he will live, and with whom he will share a home.
With ROOF’s support, Thomas now has choices.
Choice. It’s an important term that many of us take for granted. Too often those with disabilities have very few choices, especially when it comes to housing. ROOF’s vision is that every community in Florida will have an abundance of housing choices that meet the needs of these individuals, providing them with the dignity and safe environment they deserve.
While it is difficult to fathom, families of those with developmental disabilities face many tough questions, such as, “Where will my child live and who will help them when I’m gone?” ROOF is offering new choices in our community for the future of their loved ones with disabilities.
Choice is a beautiful thing when it is available to everyone, no matter their lot in life. To help establish more homes for people like Thomas, ROOF is seeking to acquire real property through donations from community members.
Donations of real estate to ROOF Housing Trust will offer assistance to many people who need it.
For more information on donating, visit www.flroof.org or call 239-774-7663.