In recent years, there has been growing recognition in the West of the importance of increasing the opportunities for people with disabilities to make choices about their lifestyle, including living in independent housing rather than in their parents’ home or an institution. In order to move into independent housing, people with disabilities need preparation, assistance and support in various areas such as finding an apartment and flatmates, household management, and utilizing services in the community.
To achieve this, a Supported Housing program has been created, for the first time in Israel, to assist people with disabilities who wish to move into independent housing. The program was developed by JDC-Israel Unlimited (a partnership of the Government of Israel, JDC-Israel and the Ruderman Family Foundation), the Rehabilitation Division and the Service for People with Autism and PDD at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Services (MOSAS), and several local authorities. In 2012, three organizations – Kivunim, Slav, and ADNAM Ltd. – began implementing a preliminary pilot of the program in 3 areas of Israel. The program provides the participants with personal assistance in a broad range of aspects of their lives: finding an apartment and flatmates, household management, employment, social and recreational activity, couple relationships; and contact with services in the community. In addition to this, joint social activities were held for the participants.
The evaluation examined the implementation and outcomes of the pilot program to assist policy makers in decisions about expansion and dissemination of the program. It included interviews with the participants and their parents, representatives of MOSAS and the local social service departments, as well as with the program directors at the implementing organizations and the care coordinators.
Among the findings:
At the time of the evaluation, some of the participants had already moved into independent accommodations and some were in the stages of preparing for the move.
All the participants who had moved into independent housing noted that the program had helped them to make the transition or had made the move better and easier. Participants who had not yet moved said that the program had helped them to believe that they were capable of moving and helped them to plan the move.
One of the key issues debated by the program developers was whether to limit the duration of the program. According to the participants, setting a limit in advance could undermine their confidence in their ability to make the transition. Some felt that they would always need assistance while others believed that over time they would need less and less assistance. In fact several participants discontinued their participation once they had completed the transition and did not feel the need for further assistance.
The program steering committee has discussed the duration of the program and other issues arising from the findings: Ways of recruiting suitable candidates, reducing the turnover of counselors, increasing the participants’ utilization of community services, and the nature of joint social activities. Following the evaluation, the program began implementation in 9 additional areas throughout Israel and has been extended to people with additional disabilities and to additional populations – the ultra-Orthodox and Arabs.
The study was initiated by JDC-Israel Unlimited and funded with its assistance.