Celebrating Specialized Housing and Ron's Home Sweet Home
My Brother's Journey to Home Ownership
By Cindy Haddad, Ron's Sister and SHI Superfan
Last month, I joined a group of families online to view the premiere of From Self- Advocacy to Independent Living, a documentary film telling the inspirational story of David and Margot Wizansky and the history of Specialized Housing, Inc.
Specialized Housing, Inc. (SHI), pioneered the concept of people with disabilities owning their own home within a supported community. This simple description doesn’t come close to describing the enormous positive impact this living arrangement has provided for SHI residents and their families.
While my older brother Ron resides in a SHI home in Arlington, MA, watching the documentary made me think about my own journey with SHI, one that started over 25 years ago.
I attended an adult sibling meeting held by the Arc of Greater Boston (now part of Northeast Arc) and the speaker was Margot Wizansky. As she described this first-of-its-kind, amazing living situation, I thought WOW:
- I can provide a stable environment for Ron 😊 and
- I don’t have to move into the family home 😀 and
- Ron and I do not have to live together! 😁
At the time, SHI had a house with a space available in Harvard Square and my Mother and I went for a visit. Everything about it seemed perfect; the staff and residents had tremendous positive energy and the house was awesome. It had an unbeatable location and was very close to a bus line that ran right by our home, a great benefit since Ron knew how to use public transportation.
Ron had told us that he wanted to move and we rushed home, excited to share our good news. Well, I was in for a surprise; Ron had no interest in moving into a house and sharing space with several people! I had thought that coming from a big family, he would have no issue living in a house with 10 people. I had thought I knew best but had forgotten to ask Ron what his thoughts were before moving ahead. Ron then moved into a different housing arrangement which, years later, he outgrew.
Over the years I have spoken with many families of the adults who reside in a SHI home, including some of the first residents of the first house in Brookline. They hold these residences in the highest regard for the longevity of staff, stability of community and environment of independence, respect and support. I always thought, Ron deserves all of this.
Two years ago, when working with a SUPPORTbroker at the Arc of Massachusetts and our DDS service coordinator to find a change of residence for Ron, they suggested a SHI home in Arlington, our hometown. Well, seeing is believing and all the accolades have proven to be true. Ron loves his condo, the staff is great and during Covid, when it was unsafe to go to work, he and his housemates have provided support for one another. While the model is well-known now, and not fit for everyone, it has brought out the best in Ron.
This holiday will be different for various reasons, but I am taking time to focus on and be grateful for the brightness provided by so many in my life, especially on behalf of Ron. I give thanks to the entire SHI family, but especially to Jackie, Ken, Josie, Sharita, Uche, Heather, Michael, Chuck, Ted and so many others for their wonderful care of their residents and keeping them safe during Covid. I am grateful for the amazing pioneering parents and their children who have led the way for us and to their other siblings who carry on. I continue to stand in awe of Margot and David for their vision, leadership and incredible belief and advocacy (even beyond Mass Advocates Standing Strong), on behalf of people with disabilities for decades.
Their light shines brightly- watch the video!