Blog Post

Supportive Homes Provide Independent Solutions for Disabled Adults

Enabling adults age 18-plus, who have a mental, physical or intellectual disability to live as independently as possible is the mission of two home-sharing programs in Philadelphia.

  • PCA’s Domiciliary Care Program (Dom Care) program matches certified care providers with adults 18 years and older in need of a caring, supportive home. Those eligible for this service are unable to live independently in the community due to physical, emotional or mental impairments but do not need special around-the-clock attention.
  • Through JEVS Human Services’ Life Sharing program, individuals with intellectual disabilities are placed in the home of a caring family or individual, in the community. Adults or young adults with an intellectual disability and Medicaid Waiver approval are eligible for the program.

For both the individuals and their families, these programs can be life-changing. For an individual, it can mean a level of independence they might not otherwise be able to achieve. For a family where the parents are aging and an adult son or daughter is unable to live alone due to a disability, it can mean peace of mind, knowing the person has a stable living situation.

“It’s not a temporary program,” says Deborah Kish-Silver, care manager with PCA’s Dom Care program.  “We consider it a long-term living situation. There’s an incredible bond between the providers and participants. Our providers are people who have an incredible heart and the patience to take care of people, who can, at times, be challenging. We provide a lot of support to help maintain the homes.”

Staff at both the JEVS and PCA programs maintain contact and check in regularly with providers and participants throughout the entire placement. “We work with everyone involved to mediate any issues that may come up,” said Kish-Silver.

A bid for independence

Thomas (Tom) Pike has worked maintenance at Wells Fargo Center for 20 years. Pike has a mild mental disability and is legally blind; his parents were drug addicts and couldn’t care for him, so he grew up in foster care. After aging out of foster care, he had very few options, and lived for a time in a group home.

“I am a grown man. I do stuff for myself.  But I wasn’t being treated with respect by the staff there,” says Pike. “I wanted to be more active, to go out and do things. I’m a social person,” he says. Then he learned about JEVS Human Services’ Life Sharing program.

Through Life Sharing, he was placed in the private home of an individual who, in addition to providing housing, also provides some caregiving for Pike.  “I like it a lot. I get along with my caretaker very well. I have my own keys. I can come and go as I want,” says Pike, who is now 47.

The program provides participants with access to classes and modules that can teach them life-based and therapeutic skills, including money management, health maintenance and medication usage, so they can learn for themselves how to live a happier, healthier life.

“The program allows participants to live their lives to the fullest potential,” says Life Sharing Program Director John E. Owens IV.

Another name for home

Barbara Hough, 56, is one of 159 providers who are part of PCA’s Dom Care program.

“The woman living with me is my age, but she has physical challenges,” says Hough. “She’s very pleasant, but needs help and can’t be alone for too long.” Hough decided to become a provider because she understands the need firsthand. “I have a cousin who’s in the same situation. I see the challenges that my aunt goes through. If my aunt wasn’t there to help, I would step in and help my family. For those who don’t have anyone, the Dom Care program is a blessing,” says Hough, who was also a caregiver for her mother.

“It’s rewarding for me because I get to see her growth and to be a part of giving her something that she may not have had in her life,” says Hough. “When I say something positive to her, she just lights up and it’s a joy to see. My family knows I’m a caring person. Everyone gets along and treats her like one of the family.”

Making a match

Both programs have a thorough placement process. To be eligible for either program, adults age 18-plus must have some type of physical disability or mental health diagnosis that impedes them from living alone. An assessment helps determine if the program can support the individual’s needs and discusses their preferences for a home or area of the city. For example, an environment with children or pets may or may not be desirable.

“The individual is given a choice of homes, and there is a trial visit,” says Kish-Silver. “We make sure that both the provider and individual are comfortable with the match. They’re not renting a room; they’re coming into a communal living situation. We strive for a fit that will turn into a long-term arrangement. We’ve had people in the program for more than 20 years.”

The provider assessment includes an interview process for appropriateness of the program and the level of support that can be provided to participants. Providers must provide references, pass a background check, participate in initial and continued training, and undergo a home study.

All provider homes are certified and monitored annually to meet state fire and safety regulations, and also for basic cleanliness and security. The home must have a private room for the participant with communal living space, including bathroom, kitchen and laundry facilities as well as dining and living space. For both programs, a limit of two participants may live in each provider home.

The individual pays the provider a monthly fee, usually through Social Security, SSI and/or a retirement account, for room, board and services.

If you are interested in learning more about either of these home sharing programs, contact the agencies listed below:

JEVS Life Sharing Program – Participant referrals must be made by individual’s case manager or social worker. Emergency placements are available. For information about the program or becoming a provider, call 267-350-8600, e-mail lifesharing@jevs.org or go to https://jevshumanservices.org.

PCA’s Domiciliary Care Program (Dom Care) – Anyone interested in becoming a participant or provider may call the PCA Helpline at 215-765-9040. To view a short video about the program, go to www.pcaCares.org/images/DomCare.htm