Easterseals Arkansas has launched an innovative new model to empower adults with disabilities to live more independently in the community – with roommates. Leveraging the power of technology, we are unlocking the potential of our community and establish homes that work for people with disabilities.
The Roommate Housing and Matching program is a community housing model for individuals receiving the Community and Employment Supports Waiver. The program matches individuals with similar interests and uses a shared staffing model and assistive technology to ensure everyone’s support needs are met.
The program is based on four key pillars:
Easterseals will match interested adults with like-minded roommates to share rent and life. Roommates will be matched through a 48-question preference questionnaire, similar to one used to match incoming college freshmen for living together in dorms. The questions will cover topics such as personality types, lifestyle preferences, conflict resolution, visitors, pets, and more.
Potential roommates and their families will meet for social outings to make sure it is a good fit before committing to living together. In our initial test apartments, roommates have gone on to become close friends. A version of this model has been very successful at helping people with intense support needs make the transition successfully to living in the community.
Easterseals will partner with both a national housing partner and local landlords to find accessible housing in individuals’ preferred community setting. Each home will accommodate between two to four roommates, allowing residents to share expenses, technology, and staff.
Each home will be operated uniquely based on the needs of the individuals living in the home. Roommates will each have their own lease and will be responsible for paying their portion of rent, utilities, and other household expenses. Depending on funding sources and landlord agreements, housing may be adapted or modified as needed to meet individuals’ accessibility and safety needs.
Smart-Home & Enabling Technology
Each home will be equipped with smart-home enabling technology, such as smart locks, thermostats, medication dispensers, and phone apps with to-do lists and reminders. This smart-home technology will be customized to each person’s needs and will help them manage daily life to live more independently.
Homes will also be equipped with remote monitoring technology such as video doorbells to detect wandering, motion sensors to detect falls, and stove sensors to monitor safety. Specific technology will depend on the particular areas of concern for each person at each home. With remote monitoring technology, one direct support professional will be able to monitor up to ten homes at one time.
As anyone who has tried to coordinate care can tell you, it is challenging to find attendants for overnight and weekend shifts. Through more efficient remote monitoring, Easterseals will be able to ensure that there is always someone available to respond in case of emergency and keep residents safe and healthy through daily care and assistance. This reduces the need for “overnight staff” to ensure safety.
The Roommate Housing and Matching Program will also offer individuals with disabilities the greatest possible level of independence in their community of choice. Through Easterseals, they will also have access to a host of other programs and services, including employment placement assistance, recreation, volunteer opportunities, and other community activities of their choice.
Staffing and Support Services
Residents will have support from direct support professionals to assist them in daily life. Staffing schedules and ratios will be unique for each home, based on the medical, physical, and personal care needs of the roommates. In addition to daily support from direct support professionals, Easterseals will also provide regular check-ins from a Community Health Nurse to support residents’ medication, health management, and wellness needs.