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What Can Group Homes Offer People with Disabilities?


Group homes are homes in the community where a disability service provider both maintains and controls a household as well as coordinates the supports for those who live in the home. (Learn more about this and other models by watching the Autism Housing Network’s Virtual Tour of Housing Options) There is some stigma surrounding group homes, but we have met and heard from residents of group homes who love where they live and the support they can count on. What has been made clear is that the quality of the service provider, the training of their staff, and their commitment to the residents is largely dependent on the particular group home provider. Life Services Alternatives (LSA) is known in California as an exceptional group home (Adult Residential Home) provider. As a parent leader who has advocated for and opened a dozen group homes, LSA’s Executive Director Dana Hooper spoke with us about what group homes can offer and things to look for in a service provider. Watch the video below to learn more about Hooper’s work and continue further to read our conversation.



Q: What is and who typically lives in a group home?

A: Group homes (aka Adult Residential Facilities) are homes for 4-6 adults with developmental disabilities. In California, these homes are licensed by Department of Social Services and are vendorized by one of 21 Regional Centers. The homes fall into various categories and provide different levels of care and support that reflect the differing needs of the residents, such as how much help is needed for daily living, getting around, medical conditions and to keep them safe and healthy.
Q: What types of support needs, family circumstances, or personalities are best served in a group home setting?

A: Certain types of needs (such as around-the-clock nursing care) are best served in a group home. No one family circumstance or personality is best served.
Q: What are the pros of living in a group home?

A: The opportunity to develop relationships with roommates and to work together to learn to be more independent. Living in a group home can provide opportunities for socialization and an opportunity to work with others to build upon these skills. This can be hard to find when living alone or in a smaller group setting. We have found that when people with differing abilities live together, they complement and learn from each other.
Q: What should be considered about choosing life in a group home instead of one’s own apartment or an adult foster care arrangement?

A: Consider which environment the individual would rather live in and take a close look at the providers and the specific programs offered to see what is most beneficial to the individual. This is where knowing the needs and individual’s preferences and personality is so important. Everyone is different. I’d suggest seeing the program in action and meeting the individuals and staff members before choosing.

Q: Why do group homes sometimes get negative press? 

A: First of all, quality can vary in any industry. There is a natural tendency to assume that all providers are bad just because a few received negative press. In California, providers may be “for profit” or “not for profit” organizations. The State sets the rates for residential services, and it’s the same for all providers. Unfortunately, the State has a history of freezing rates and/or not keeping up with the cost of doing business. This puts a tremendous amount of pressure on providers to keep costs down to survive. Providers have to find ways to maintain quality.  This may include outside fundraising, better cost control or efficiencies.
Q: What are characteristics to look for when considering a specific group home provider?

A: Visit the homes to see how well maintained they are, as this is a good indication of how well funded and run the organization is. Talk with staff and ask questions to get to know how they run their program and how they operate. (See the questions below that may be useful in determining the quality of the staff and programs and determining the fit for you and your family member.)
Q: What questions should be asked when considering a specific group home provider?

A: Here is a list of questions to consider:

  • What are their values – can I trust them?
  • What is the level of quality of their homes/program and staff? Can I observe and verify the quality through references?
  • Have they demonstrated that they have adequate financial resources and stability?
  • How involved in the community are residents?
  • What does community involvement look like?
  • How do they view family involvement?
  • What kind of a track record do they have?

Q: Do you have any ideas on improving the quality and/or ensuring accountability of group home providers? 

A: Yes, absolutely. The rate structure needs to be overhauled and rates aligned with outcomes/performance. Higher quality programs and/or programs located in higher cost of living areas should have higher rates. The oversight today is oriented toward detecting/correcting deficiencies and doesn’t address quality.

group homes

Dana Hooper has served as LSA’s Executive Director since 2007 and is an advocate for creating more Adult Residential Homes. During his tenure, he has successfully opened 8 homes in Santa Clara County. As a past board member of San Andreas Regional Center and a parent of a developmentally disabled son in Supported Living, Dana understands the full spectrum of housing options in the local community.


  1. Leslie Harris Steinman
    Leslie Harris Steinman04-11-2018

    Hi. We live in nyc, we come to Florida often as my husbands family is there.
    Our son Adam is 20 yrs old. Autism diagnosis with some OCD behaviors. He has processing issues, for example in an interview he might need to be asked a question a couple of times before he actually answers. Or needs some prompting to continue his thought. Adam is completely independent with hygiene and can cook for himself. He is not an independent traveler and time management is a big challenge. He needs reminders frequently from when he gets up in the am with his alarm at 6 until his bus gets him at 7:35. I probably open his door 5 times to remind him to get his breakfast, or get dressed or go do his am bathroom routine before the bus arrives. He is an awesome worker and loves friends. He is an active participant in social activities and loves to be involved. Adam may have trouble sitting quietly in a classroom so we are trying to steer away from that aspect of academic and want to stick with a track of residential/ social living and taking the next step. His IQ is 67 and reading comprehension is 2nd grade. He can read pretty much anything but the comprehension is better in only what interests him. If you think Adam sounds like he could fit in here, please contact me via email. Thx!!!
    Leslie Harris Steinman

  2. Autistic Acceptance Month Day 24: Eugenics: Past, Present, And (Hopefully Not) Future – Comments From The Pecan Gallery
    Autistic Acceptance Month Day 24: Eugenics: Past, Present, And (Hopefully Not) Future – Comments From The Pecan Gallery04-24-2018

    […] more care than a single household can provide for them, and some group homes do allow for a lot of independence. But there is still a tendency to isolate in some situations, and I think this should be pushed […]

  3. joyce royer
    joyce royer09-03-2018

    Makes me wish we lived in CA, but we live in FL. My daughter is a Christian and needs active support in her church as well as appropriate care for her health issues, asthma, C-PAP, and Medication Delivery on a schedule. Emotional supports and encouragement as I am ill and making plans for her future permanent placement. We need an all girl home, something hard to find in FL. which seems unconcerned about immorality of the mentally handicapped in general. Can you advise us please.

  4. Velma Paschall
    Velma Paschall09-17-2018

    I am looking into the possibility of moving my 60 year old brother who has a severe mental disability and autism to the San Diego area where my husband and I recently retired. He currently lives in a nonprofit residential center near Nashville, Tenn.
    His care is currently covered by Medicaid.
    I’m not sure the best way to look into the feasibility of moving him closer to us or if this is even a possibility.
    Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated!

  5. Parish Burchell
    Parish Burchell12-07-2018

    I am a 43 year old disabled woman in need of housing. I will be homeless soon. Please help.

    • genevieve leary
      genevieve leary12-14-2018

      Good Evening Parish,

      I am sorry about your circumstances, we will do our best to help you out. I would like you to fill out the contact form on Autism Housing Network website. You can find it using this link Please provide us with any information you feel comfortable sharing about your situation and your location.

    • Alex

      I am single forever I am looking for a pretty cute girl to go out with me

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