Funding Urgently Needed to Keep People in their Homes

North Carolina’s housing system for individuals with disabilities– once cited as a national leader in innovation, outcomes and broad stakeholder collaboration -- now struggles to remain solvent and serve its intended populations.
Although high quality housing inventory exists, along with federal housing subsidies, trained staff, and would-be residents, a patchwork of insufficient funding streams is crippling the system and putting people’s health and safety at risk. The factors contributing to this growing crisis are not new.  However, the cumulative impact of these antiquated and insufficient funding streams – based neither on actual costs or modern regulations – is leaving greater numbers of unserved individuals, providers closing their doors, and working families struggling to remain in the workforce while their loved ones flow in and out of costly crisis-based care.
 
For over 30 years, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has successfully partnered with a variety of community-based organizations throughout NC to develop both group homes and apartments for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and/or mental health needs (MH).  This partnership has yielded quality, cost-effective, community-based housing, serving over 3,000 individuals with disabilities. While this significant federal investment has been critical to our state’s success in providing viable housing options for individuals with I/DD and MH, this HUD funding was intended solely to create and maintain the housing itself. North Carolina, in return, committed to fund the day-to-day operational costs of providing staff and supports to ensure occupants’ needs were met. 
 
Many years ago, the State chose to adjust how they funded their portion of group homes for people with disabilities, many of which are HUD funded properties.  In exchange for lowering the monthly room/board rate, Personal Care Services (PCS) were created to fill the funding gap for individuals living in group homes. These PCS funds were a critical component to providing quality supports to residents, and keeping the homes solvent.  In 2012, the eligibility criteria for PCS changed, and many group homes residents were no longer eligible.  This loss of funding, left a major gap in supports for people with disabilities, and threatened the ability of group homes to continue to provide residential care. Many I/DD providers were left with no choice but to restrict who they serve and to only accept applicants with the Innovations Waiver, however, the waiting list for Waiver services in many places is 7-10 years long. Consequently, many homes are being left with vacancies and people in need are left without housing options.
 
In 2013 and 2014, to address this loss of PCS, a “bridge fund” was established to temporarily support individuals in these homes, until a permanent solution could be crafted. To date, a permanent solution has yet to be implemented, and the State is not adequately funding its portion of providing residential care to individuals with I/DD and MH.  
 
The impact?  Individuals who have called these residences “home” – some for decades – have been or will be displaced. Large and small nonprofits are divesting themselves of housing units and laying off staff. Not only are current residents at risk of losing their housing, as the I/DD and MH populations continue to grow and outlive their families, more are more individuals will be forced into more restrictive institutional settings or other more costly options that do not meet their needs.
 
In order to avoid a catastrophic loss of critical housing assets in North Carolina, a short term dedicated funding resource is needed now to stabilize and maintain these homes while a purposeful long-term solution can be crafted and implemented. The Arc of North Carolina and our housing partners strongly urge the North Carolina General Assembly to provide $10 million in immediate gap funding to keep these homes open while a permanent solution, informed by data and broad stakeholder involvement, can be implemented. At the invitation of The Arc of NC, a committed group of broad stakeholders have resumed dialogue in an effort to craft a lasting solution based on real costs, real needs, and real people. The private stakeholders impacted by these funds commit to making a viable recommendation to the NCGA and the Department of Health and Human Services no later than August 31, 2017.