Community supports staff provides links to independence

The Bullhorn
Volume 74
March 2012

As a Community Support Coordinator at Access Living, Cris Johnson spends most of his time visiting people's homes in Chicago. He works with people with disabilities that live within the community, but need some support in order to live independently. Cris' job is to make sure people with disabilities have access to the resources in the community.

Cris works on the Community Supports Team, an operating a program of the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) that ensures Chicagoans with disabilities are supported to live independently. Any person with a disability who is less than 60– years old, living in Chicago and not eligible for DHS services is eligible for the services provided by the MOPD program.

People with disabilities interested in the program should contact 311. Initially, they will talk to MOPD who will refer them to Access Living for an assessment. Cris, or another community supports coordinator, meets with the consumer in their home and together they collaborate to determine what kind of services and supports will enable the person to live independently. Cris builds a case for support, which is sent to MOPD. MOPD then makes a determination regarding what services, supports and in some cases assistive technology items a person receives. Cris considers himself an advocate for people with disabilities who need access to community resources that are often taken for granted by the general population.

Cris works hard to partner with people with disabilities so they can live on their own terms. One of the biggest challenges that stand in the way of people receiving adequate services is the city's fiscal constraints which has resulted in and homemakers hours being decreased. Cris explained that the cuts are tough for everyone homemakers and people with disabilities. The decreases make it more difficult to supply adequate supports that enable people with disabilities to live independently. While organizers and policy staff at Access Living push for adequate funding and services, Cris will continue to search for ways to connect people with disabilities with the day to day supports necessary to thrive in the community.