Parents of adult children with disabilities fill housing gap

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In this Monday, Dec. 9, 2019, photo is the new home of Conor Gunderson and Luke Humble, who both have Down syndrome, who share the residence at the Luna Azul housing development for adults with disabilities, in Phoenix. The two spend most evenings with a habilitation provider, who is teaching them skills for living independently. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX, AZ – Luke Humble and Conor Gunderson have settled into a comfortable rhythm since moving into their own home in Phoenix three months ago.

Humble, 26, says he likes eating breakfast with his best friend before they go their separate ways to work.

“Conor goes to Fry's,” said Humble, referring to the supermarket where Gunderson, 24, organizes produce. “I go to the cafe in the morning.”

The two spend most evenings with a habilitation provider, who is teaching them skills for living independently.

Humble and Gunderson, who have been buddies for five years, both have Down syndrome and are among the first residents of Luna Azul, the latest example of housing developments for adults with disabilities spearheaded by their greatest advocates: their parents.

For caretakers, the inevitable question of where to place their children with disabilities when they are no longer around can be scary and overwhelming. But some are literally breaking new ground in finding an answer. Parents in Arizona, Wisconsin, Maryland and other states have become the architects of their children's futures.

One reason: Social media and online resources are inspiring parents to look beyond the status quo, said Desiree Kameka, director of the nonprofit Autism Housing Network, which maintains a list of U.S. residential opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It shows nearly 50 communities are being developed or are in the planning phase nationwide, including several that are parent-driven.

“All of a sudden, they start seeing other families and other communities have been successful,” Kameka said. "It gives them hope and initiative that maybe they can make it a reality.”