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Untapped resources exist for affordable housing
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Housing resources

The car was traveling at 60 mph when the crash happened. After six weeks in a coma, David Ball woke up with his hip broken in 13 places and a blood clot in his brain.

Ball was 18 at the time and for the 28 years since, he said, he's been living with the repercussions of that day.

On Wednesday, he gathered with others who are disabled to talk about the challenges they face, the hardest of which, he said, can be asking for help.

"If they're willing to stick their hand out, someone will take it," he said.

The Wednesday seminar, hosted by the Disability Resource Center, focused on often untapped resources for finding affordable and accessible housing. The 20 people in attendance listened to speakers from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, Metro Fair Housing Services, Habitat for Humanity and the Georgia Advocacy Office.

The central message from across all agencies: Don't be afraid to ask for help.

"Being a person of disability is like being dropped in the middle of a maze," said advocate Cheri Mitchell. "... Never give up. Because if you give up, you will never get out of the maze."

Nearly one out of every five people is disabled, said Sarah Beth Fede, the advocacy coordinator for the Disability Resource Center.

"The disability community is the largest minority and the only minority that any of us can become a part of at any second," she said. "So these types of issues could affect any of us one day."

That's why communities need to put support behind programs that increase the rights and services for disabled people, Mitchell said.

She focused heavily in her presentation on advocacy and said people need to be more proactive in improving their conditions.

One of the biggest challenges disability advocates are facing is getting the federal government to classify individuals who are living in institutionalized settings, such as nursing homes, as homeless so they can take advantage of corresponding resources, she said. Most of these individuals' Supplemental Security Income goes to their housing and the little that is left over is not enough to put a deposit on an apartment.

"They've been segregated into there and they can't get out without assistance," she said.

Disabled people also are often filtered into specialized housing communities that breed a culture of exclusivity, Mitchell said.

"We don't need congregative and segregated housing," she said. "We need scattered housing in the community."

Ron Ross from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs also presented information on the Georgia Dream home ownership program, which offers down payment assistance to first-time homeowners.

Those who fit into a set income limit can receive up to $7,500 to use toward purchasing expenses.

Individuals with disabilities who make under $29,999 can receive up to $10,000 through the program.

Joya Green from Metro Fair Housing Services taught attendees how to file a discrimination claim, a process she said can be overwhelming. She said many people don't know they have the right to make improvements on rented spaces that will improve their quality of life. Sometimes, she said, landlords are required to make changes themselves.

Throughout the day, presenters repeated that applying for these services isn't easy. But reaching out for help, Mitchell said, is the first step. She said knowing your needs is essential and people should not hesitate to call their local Legal Aid office if they are confused about their rights.

"Let them help you fight the fight," she said. "It will save your blood pressure."


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