Shared Living: Helping People Thrive
By Shared Living Case Manager Richard Jorgensen
“You open up your heart to another person. You’re talking about everything that goes along with that. You have the opportunity to make a difference in somebody’s life.” — Marilyn, Shared Living provider since 1995.
The UCS Developmental Services Shared Living Program supports individuals in a safe, stable, and caring home environment. Beyond that, we hope each individual, along with their caregiver, thrives by becoming more independent and enjoying their lives to the fullest.
The Shared Living Program began in earnest in the early nineties, coinciding with the closing of the Brandon Training School (BTS). BTS, Vermont’s institution, was created more than 100 years earlier for the housing, care and treatment of individuals with developmental disabilities. Vermont was the second state in the union (New Hampshire was first) that could proudly say it does not have an institution, or a “developmental center.”
The Shared Living (SL) model for residential support has grown steadily in Vermont with over 1200 individuals currently living in provider homes. The UCS Shared Living Program now supports 54 individuals in 43 homes. There are individuals as young as eighteen and as old as ninety in the program. SL providers open their homes to individuals and include them in their family. These providers are committed to providing care and support by helping individuals maintain good health and develop independent living skills. They also enjoy activities in the community and interactions with others by participating in holiday celebrations, going camping, playing bingo, competing in Special Olympics, and many other socially enriching activities.
Some Shared Living providers own their own homes, while others live in apartments or in rentals. They can have experience in the field of developmental disabilities or in some other field that relates to supporting individuals. The success of individuals in Shared Living homes reflects the commitment that providers make to meet the individuals’ needs. Life in Shared Living encourages some individuals to learn the skills needed to care for themselves, and to have the confidence then to move into a home of their own. Others will continue to live in a Shared Living home for the rest of their lives.
“We do things for fun, like watching the birds and animals that come into our yard. We have helped each other when there has been loss in our families. We stay positive and are proactive doing things we enjoy. We laugh together.” — Linda, Shared Living provider since 1997.