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TN Disability Advocates "Camp Out" For Better Housing Options

September 18, 2008

Washington, D.C. – More than 400 people with disabilities and others are camped out in front of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offices to draw attention to another kind of housing crisis - what they see as a lack of federal funding for accessible housing options.

The goal is to shed light on the "Community Choices Act," legislation to help people with disabilities to live independently, rather than in nursing homes -- where many end up, advocates say, simply because there are so few other choices for them. Randy Alexander, a community organizer with the Center for Independent Living of Memphis, is at the tent city in Washington.

"The Community Choice Act would make those services an entitlement, so states would have to provide equal access to the services people want and need in order to live their own lives, in their own homes."

Alexander says the next administration must make affordable housing for people with disabilities a priority and participants in the action have attempted to meet with representatives from both presidential campaigns. In Tennessee, he says the recently-passed "Community Choice Act of 2008" was a good start, but budget cuts have eliminated programs before they could get off the ground.

"This administration has sold out to the managed-care organizations and nursing home industry, to continue to make sure that industry keeps getting funded on the lives and backs of people with disabilities."

Alexander says currently there are 35,000 people with disabilities in Tennessee who live in nursing homes. Of those, at least 7,000 say they would prefer to live on their own. Cosponsors of the Community Choices Act include Tennessee Congressmen Bart Gordon and Steve Cohen.

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Barbara Dab/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - TN