Elizabeth Avelar is a single parent who was hanging on by a thread. The rental unit where she and two of her sons lived was broken into and ransacked. Later, the family was evicted and were forced to live in their car for 11 months, and spent another year at an extended-stay motel in the Phoenix area. During all this turmoil, Elizabeth was the primary caregiver for her son, Christian, who has autism, epilepsy with severe seizures, an intellectual disability and was born without a pancreas, which required frequent insulin injections. Compounding the family’s challenges and emotional roller-coaster ride was the murder of Elizabeth’s youngest son, Avery, in November 2019.
Fortunately for the Avelar family, Christian is a member of the DES Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD). DDD offers programs and services to help those with an intellectual or developmental disability (I/DD). Gabriella Enos, a DDD Support Coordinator who worked with Christian, offered the family a much-needed safety net: the DDD Affordable Housing Program. Understanding the family’s housing situation and lack of convenient transportation, Gabriella believed the first step was to find permanent housing for the Avelars.
Previously offered only in Phoenix, the service has expanded to Tucson, thanks to the Federal Section 811 Project Rental Assistance (PRA) Grant, and Gorman & Company. The 811 PRA Grant for persons with disabilities provides funding for subsidized rental housing for very low- and extremely low-income adults with disabilities. To be qualified for subsidized housing, DDD/Arizona Long Term Care System (ALTCS) members and their families must be between the ages of 18 to 61, have a current Individual Support Plan (ISP), and meet financial eligibility and HUD requirements.
The DDD Housing Project Coordinator worked with Elizabeth, walking her step-by-step through the application process. Then on May 15, 2020, the Avelars’ moved into their new apartment home in Tucson. The apartment came with all needed appliances, including a full-size washer and dryer, microwave and ceiling fans. Outside the apartment building is both a bus stop and Sun Link, Tucson’s light rail, making transportation convenient. The complex also has surveillance cameras throughout, gates and special locks, adding another level of security for the family.
With their housing challenge solved and Christian receiving a pancreatic organ transplant which has stabilized his blood sugar levels, Christian is looking forward to the end of the pandemic when he can go back to work and participate in a DDD Adult Day Care program.
By Lyn Riley