HOPE Is Proud to Partner with SVS on Landscaping Services That Keep Our Affordable Homes Looking Beautiful and Employ People With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
by Ian Nevarez
HOPE knows that living an ordinary, independent life is a primary goal for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Housing plays an enormous role in achieving that objective, but how can someone afford a home in this challenging real estate market without a job? If HOPE truly wants to be a part of the solution, then we also must prioritize creating employment opportunities for this population. That is why, in 2016, we started a contract with the landscaping arm of Social Vocation Services (SVS), a statewide service provider for people with I/DD.
SVS was founded in 1977 as a small after-school program for teenagers with autism. Since its establishment, SVS has grown to serve over 4,000 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout California. They offer a wide variety of services to meet the needs and interests of a diverse population, from day programs, work programs, and licensed group homes. Their landscaping business has been operating for nearly 20 years while providing jobs and personal growth opportunities for people with I/DD.
The current employment rate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in California lags far behind the rate for those without disabilities, as well as the rate for people with all other types of disabilities. While a majority of people with I/DD desire to work, the State Council on Developmental Disabilities (SCDD) reports that during the past decade, little more than 13% of this population has been employed.1 Despite efforts to enhance employment opportunities, substantial barriers to accessing gainful employment still persist for a majority of these individuals.
This reality has a significant impact on the ability of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to afford rent. Currently, 8 out of 10 people with I/DD must rely on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to support themselves. A typical SSI payment is around $900 a month or $10,800 a year. SSI-level income is less than 20% of the area median income for Los Angeles County and below the 2019 federal poverty line of $12,490. 2 According to the 2014 Half in Ten Report from the Center for American Progress, 28.4% of adults with disabilities live in poverty, and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities represent 16% of all adults living in poverty.
Housing is generally considered affordable when the rent or mortgage is no more than thirty percent of a person’s income. For people living on a $900 a month SSI payment, affordability would translate to no more than $270 a month. Rents at this level are nonexistent in Los Angeles County. In fact, in Los Angeles, an average one-bedroom apartment rents for $1,360 and is five times more than what a person living on SSI can afford. 3
Jobs are vital to addressing this issue for people with I/DD. The SVS Downey Community Inclusion Services gardening group is just one example of the wide variety of work opportunities SVS offers their clients statewide. In order to be employed by SVS as a landscaper, candidates must demonstrate safety awareness skills and the ability to operate gardening equipment such as lawnmowers, edgers, or weed and hedge trimmers.
HOPE will be looking for ways to further expand our use of their excellent services.
Employees of this service take pride in their work. They are very detail oriented and guarantee a beautifully landscaped yard every time. HOPE can attest that they genuinely care about us as customers and the lawns and gardens they service.
When a person with an intellectual or developmental disability is given the opportunity to work, they benefit in more ways than just receiving a paycheck. There is pride in being able to contribute financially to their independence, a chance to make friends, and an overall ability to stay active and feel useful. “There’s a lot to do,” employee Ignacio M. says, “It keeps me busy. I like to use the lawnmower!”
Because of our donors, volunteers, and advocates, HOPE can pursue our mission of creating stable, affordable homes for people with developmental disabilities, while never losing track of why we do what we do. With your support, HOPE will continue to keep our values front and center as we create independence, choice, and dignity through housing for those we serve.
1California State Council on Developmental Disabilities, https://scdd.ca.gov/ca_empl_rate/#.XNmilRRKhhE.
2U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (2018), Poverty Guidelines. https://aspe.hhs.gov/2019-poverty-guidelines.
3Apartment List (April, 2019), Rent Report Los Angeles. https://www.apartmentlist.com/ca/los-angeles#rent-report