Staff shortages lead to less-than-desirable living situations for some

These are things that happened in the last few years to members of our disability community, during COVID-19. Two of […]

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These are things that happened in the last few years to members of our disability community, during COVID-19. Two of my friends and I lost our homes. I became homeless, and ended up in a long-term care nursing home. Two of my friends, long-time advocates for our community, were forced out of their independent and assisted living situations and into group homes. This is a bit of our stories.  My name is L.A. Reed. I have been on a Section 8 voucher for more than 20 years. I could not find another SAFE place to move to. So I was evicted for complaining too much about broken washing machines when I had no way to go to a laundromat or wash my clothes. I often had no PCA to help me.

I was evicted and became homeless. A nursing home was a better option than the street or shelter, with my physical disabilities.

Last year two of my friends, with more profound disabilities than mine, were forced out of their long-time homes. One had lived 25 years independently. My other friend left a long-term assisted living situation. The ongoing lack of PCAs in our community, which worsened during COVID-19, resulted in our housing losses.

One friend told me that in group homes, they have to give over nearly all of their money to the control of the facility. They have almost no control over their finances, or many other aspects of their lives. Both are people who have been actively involved in disability politics for years.

All three of us are people who have the ability to make our own decisions about our own lives and our bodies.

The nursing home I was forced into had a reputation for years of a history of abuse and neglect. I decided, out of necessity to protect myself, to become an in-house advocate. I have made many reports through the Health Department’s Abuse and Neglect hot-line and also through the state’s ombudspeople. I complained and documented the problems I was experiencing here, which other patients didn’t have the ability to do.

This situation happened to me due to increased discrimination against those of us with vouchers, by independent building owners. Often, even if a living situation were bad or became worse, I could not find another safe place to live in. In this case, I looked for 10 years. Last year I even worked with a state housing transition specialist. After six months of looking at 40 buildings, I could not find one that either took my voucher, or was safe for my physical toilet setup with decades-long back injuries (I need a frame over the toilet – it takes up space!)

Oofda!  This has not been fun.

Funny, people say we are lazy. We should be able to work. (Many of us do, we just are not paid for it!) And many work situations don’t allow for the diversity of disabilities a lot of us have.

Then they feel sorry if we are homeless. Which is it?  Even if we are physically able to find jobs, and afford housing we choose, we might still be disabled enough to need ongoing PCA/DSP care to live there. Without that care, we still might not be able to live in places we choose.

In fall 2023 I learned there was a community speak-out through the Metropolitan Council to discuss issues of accessibility and affordability housing in the disabled community. The council took testimony on why and how so many of us disabled folks were dealing with bad housing situations. They wanted to know our experiences, and come up with solutions.

I didn’t find out about it until it was over. Knowing that I had A LOT to say about this, I called Met Council, and ended up spending an hour with one of the lovely folks involved with that meeting, telling her my story. By time we were finished, she was crying about my disability issues, my long search for housing, ongoing discrimination and discouragement and why I ended up homeless and in a dangerous nursing home.

Oofda again.

When I asked her how long it would take for the Metropolitan Council to create solutions for affordable and accessible housing, meaning physically safe housing, she said two years. I lovingly told her that is not soon enough.

L.A. Reed is a disability rights activist who lives in the Twin Cites.

  • "Stay safe, Minnesota. Take steps to protect yourself, & others from the COVID-19 virus."
  • "Stay safe, Minnesota. Take steps to protect yourself & others from the COVID-19 virus."

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