People with special needs (ex: intellectual, physical, and mental disabilities), often find themselves left in the dust after high school. Few programs are available for people with special needs post-graduation, leaving many to spend their days away at home with caregivers or loved ones. While these may be the circumstances for some amount of time, what happens after the passing of the caregiver? People with special needs are at risk of becoming homeless.
The individuals with special needs become more at risk of homelessness when they become older. This increased risk is primarily due to the death of a parent or primary caregiver. For those with special needs, finding and holding a job after high school can be challenging without the proper resources. It is common for people with disabilities to be paid below the minimum wage, making it even more difficult to afford housing. They get paid 66 cents for every dollar, compared to their neurotypical counterparts. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is more than half of the overall unemployment rate of the entire country. Put together the lack of experience, the inability to get a job, lower wages, and the lack of a caretaker; it eventually pushes the individual into homelessness.
How is the experience of homeless different for somebody with special needs? Overall, these individuals tend to face more difficulties. Identifying with special needs is a broad term because each individual will have different needs, and it’s really a case-by-case situation. Along with that, only a few people are thoroughly trained, or have experience managing behaviors out of the ordinary. For those reasons, finding shelters with people who have the proper training to aid those with special needs can be challenging. Additionally, not having access to shelters can force these individuals into staying in dangerous areas. This can put them at a greater risk for violence. Not only will they not have access to shelter, but having special needs usually comes with underlying health problems and the need for repeated treatment, depending on the individual. Untreated physical and mental health can further worsen a person’s condition, and remaining homelessness will continue deteriorating the individual.
Discussions are going on about how to prevent people with disabilities from ending up homeless, but discussions are mere words. That would entail creating permanent housing for people with disabilities, creating better job opportunities, and providing resources to teach job and life skills for those with intellectual disabilities. These are very surface-level actions that can be taken, but at least in the right direction.