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Here's how Kansas Citians with disabilities can access affordable housing

 Ciassy Wilson is the caretaker for Jenny Weitzel, who lives in accessible housing provided by the Center for Developmentally Disabled. Wilson takes Weitzel to appointments, shopping and daily activities in a van specifically designed to accommodate her wheelchair.
Chase Castor
The Beacon
Ciassy Wilson (right) is the caretaker for Jenny Weitzel, who lives in accessible housing provided by the Center for Developmentally Disabled. Wilson takes Weitzel to appointments, shopping and daily activities in a van specifically designed to accommodate her wheelchair.

About 18 million people with disabilities across the U.S. qualify for housing assistance, but do not receive any. This lack of accessible options is prevalent in Kansas City. Here is a list of local organizations that offer housing assistance to residents with disabilities.

Kansas City lacks affordable housing options for its residents, and the problem is even worse for people with disabilities.

As part of its Zero KC plan to end houselessness in five years, the city needs 17,303 extremely affordable units to accommodate low-income renters.

The need for affordable accessible housing exists despite federal efforts to protect people with disabilities from discrimination. Under the federal Fair Housing Act — which prohibits discrimination based on disability when a person is buying, renting or seeking funds for a home — a person with a disability can request reasonable accommodations to rules, policies and services when necessary.

For example, this includes allowing a service animal in a no-pet building in order to afford tenants with disabilities equal opportunity to enjoy their home. It also prohibits housing providers from refusing to allow reasonable modifications of the existing premises at the expense of the person with a disability, such as installing a walking ramp in a building, to ensure equal housing opportunities.

Still, around 18 million people with disabilities in the U.S. “are eligible for federal housing assistance but are not receiving it,” according to a 2022 report from the Urban Institute and The Kelsey, an organization dedicated to developing affordable, inclusive community housing.

The following is a list of housing resources for people with disabilities who need accessible housing or in-home care in the Kansas City metro area.

Housing resources for people with disabilities

Ability KC supports children and adults with disabilities by providing educational, employment and therapeutic services. They also provide resources for home and environmental modifications.

Catholic Charities KC offers resources meant to help lift people out of poverty. Its services include five Missouri properties in Kansas City, Warrensburg and Cameron that feature independent housing for seniors older than 62 or adults with disabilities. The organization also offers a community housing program, which is backed by four grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for people who are chronically unhoused and disabled. The HUD grant housing operates in the following counties: Buchanan, Nodaway, Lafayette, Ray, Clay and Platte.

The Center for Developmentally Disabled provides services to clients with disabilities that include specialized accessible housing.The CDD also helps people with disabilities who are older than 16 live as independently as possible — either in their family’s house or in housing the organization provides — through in-home 24-hour personal care.

Easterseals Midwest is a branch of Easterseals, a nonprofit that advocates for and empowers people with disabilities to be “equal participants in society.” They provide support to 6,000 people a year across Illinois, Kansas and Missouri and offer in-home personal care ranging from independent living arrangements for people who need 10 hours or less of support to 24-hour care through a shared living model in which people live with a companion who is screened and trained for compatibility by the organization.

Friends of JCDS works to remove barriers to affordable, accessible housing and helps with basic needs for adults with disabilities who receive assistance from Johnson County Developmental Supports. They own 19 homes that have been remodeled to include accommodations such as ramps and widened doorways for people with physical disabilities. The organization is slated to have at least five more houses constructed by 2025. Friends of JCDS also offers support such as rent assistance, clothing, food and medical expenses to help adults with disabilities live independently.

Life Unlimited is Kansas City’s largest provider of disability services that works with clients in need of a home to find a roommate match and a quality home for rent or purchase. Under the individualized support model, clients can receive support services such as in-home care ranging from a few hours per week to 24 hours per day in their homes or in homes the organization provides. The organization also offers community integration programs for clients who may need less hands-on support such as accompanying them for outings and appointments.

Metro Lutheran Ministry offers long-term supportive services such as rental assistance and home furnishing to the poor, elderly or people with disabilities. They also offer minor home repairs or accommodations, such as the installation of railings or safety lights, for Kansas City residents who are elderly or disabled homeowners and have an income that is 150% of the federal poverty line or below.

The Whole Person provides independent living services, such as personal care assistance and employment help, to people with disabilities in the Kansas City metro area.

This story was originally published by the Kansas City Beacon, a fellow member of the KC Media Collective.

Mili Mansaray is the housing and labor reporter at The Kansas City Beacon. Previously, she was a freelance reporter and Summer 2020 intern.
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