Many of our individuals reside in our group homes. We pride ourselves on our level of care and the happiness of our people. But, what happens when someone doesn’t fit inside the norms of a group home? Where do they go? How do you support someone whose needs exceed the group home? This past summer, all of these fearful questions came to light.
We’ve never met anyone quite like Toby. He’s cheerful, energetic, loving, and inquisitive. He loves without exceptions and always wants to be a helping hand. However, when trying to fit him into the norm of a group home, he bursts at the seams. Toby is captivating, he thrives on 1:1 attention and leaves no room to share it with anyone else. He was raised to know and follow the rules, use his manners, and be polite. However, living with other people who too thrived with attention and at times invaded his space, impeded his ability to tolerate his surroundings.
Toby was in a group home with two peers and was expected to follow a routine he’s never experienced- waking up in a group home, going to work in the workshop, and going back to a group home. He was not able to adapt to the environment and wanted different things for his day. He showed us in every way possible that a group home was not for him. A slew of challenging behaviors occurring day after day with no real solution to deter them. At this point in time, we did not have anything else to offer besides finding a different group home. But if he wasn’t successful in our group home, why did we think he would be successful in another? It was time to think outside the box. My team spent many long days and nights trying to come up with a plan of action. We racked our brains, worked with his MCO, and had team meetings day after day to figure out how to best support him.
Community living is a service that is not often spoken about because it is so unfamiliar to us, but it was time to experience it. Toby was our first individual to receive supported living and he’s a true success story. We spent many long days seeking community housing for him. With the help of his family, we looked at multiple houses, apartments, rentals, trying to find the most appropriate ‘Toby proof’ home we could find with the short amount of time we had. We located a rental house close to Downtown Statesville. Almost ideal, walking distance to many events and local activities, one neighbor so we didn’t need to worry about noise complaints as we know he can be loud at times, and best of all- no housemates.
Within the first month in his new home, we began to see the old Toby we know and love. The challenging behaviors reduced, the restrictions in place at the group home were no longer warranted, he had his own key to his own home, space he could truly be himself. Many things have been trial and error. It’s a learning curve for us all experiencing this new service. We continue to learn more about the community and finding things for Toby to do to fulfill his meaningful day.
Community living wasn’t a fix all, there are still many challenges that come with supporting Toby. But, we’re ready for these challenges knowing that he will always have a place to live.
The fear that takes over you when an individual isn’t successful in a group home and has nowhere to go no longer takes up any place in your head. This service is the push we need to help our individuals create their own meaningful day and live their best life. We weren’t created to live in group homes, it’s time to start thinking outside the box and in the community.