The look on 21-year-old Raymond Chavez’s face when he walked into his patio apartment for the first time said it all: excitement, joy and pride.
That might sound typical of any 21-year-old moving into a new place, but it’s something special for Ray. He has cerebral palsy and epilepsy, which present challenges for both independent living and finding gainful employment that covers the rent. Thanks to the Department of Economic Security (DES) Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD), he’s working toward both.
Affordable housing is part of DDD’s “HERO” program, which stands for Housing, Engagement, Resources and Opportunity. In collaboration with the Housing Authority of Maricopa County, DDD members and their families who meet certain eligibility criteria may apply for this affordable housing opportunity. To be eligible, a member must receive services from both DDD and the Arizona Long Term Care System (ALTCS); have an active Individual Support Plan; be between the ages of 18 and 61; and meet certain financial criteria. This option became available in the summer 2017, with the goal of helping eligible DDD members live more independently.
Eligible members may live with family members or friends as long as they meet the financial and housing requirements. Ray and his mother became one of the first tenants in a newly-remodeled complex in Phoenix. This particular complex has reserved nearly 10 percent of its units for members of the Division. These units are scattered throughout the complex, with recreational facilities and public transportation nearby.
“One of the most exciting aspects of the location is that DDD members will be truly integrated within the community,” said DDD Assistant Director, Maureen Casey.
Moving into this apartment was a big step for both Ray and his mother. Until they secured the housing, Ray and his mother had been living with Ray’s uncle until they could find a more permanent solution. With their domestic situation more secure, Ray now can focus on finding a job. He can progress from the DDD day treatment job program and go on to participate in the Group Supported Employment program, which offers job coaching services and helps eligible DDD members become employed. He’ll have access to job leads and other resources to find employment.
This affordable housing opportunity is made possible through a collaboration with the Housing Authority of Maricopa County.
In a separate collaboration with the Arizona Department of Housing, with funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the DDD HERO program is exploring affordable rental options outside of Maricopa County. Over the next three years, the federal grant will enable the DDD HERO program to offer a total of 64 rental units throughout Arizona.
For more information on DDD services, please visit the DES website.
DDD employees conducted a donation drive during the holidays to collect household items for those members moving into apartments made available through the HERO program. View the DDD holiday drive donations!