Press Release: People's Access to Homes Emerges from The Independence Center Community Organizing Efforts

People's Access to Homes logoCOLORADO SPRINGS, CO, November 23, 2015 – The Independence Center housing study from December 2014 – April 2015 engendered a new community organizing group in Colorado Springs called People’s Access to Homes (PATH), which continues to coalesce while fighting the proposed Sit/Lie Ordinance. Affordable, accessible housing for people with disabilities is a key issue of The Independence Center and Carrie Baatz, Community Organizer at The Independence Center (The IC) has been studying it and organizing around it for nearly a year.
“A home is that bedrock of your existence, where you rest each day at the end of the day, where you recover from illnesses, where you retreat and spend time with those close to you,” Carrie Baatz, Community Organizer at The Independence Center (The IC), says.
Baatz undertook the issue of housing from the community organizing office of The IC. Facilitating focus groups with other organizations such as Tessa, Springs Rescue Mission and Women’s Resource Agency; interviews and community forums, Baatz developed a formal report called Affordable and Accessible Housing Needs and Barriers: Community Voices in the Pikes Peak Region, which can be found online at
In addition to the formal report, The Independence Center facilitated the emergence of a dedicated group of individuals to have a voice in the discussion and a place at the table to help drive change in the Pikes Peak region. These individuals joined together and created a community organizing group with the name People’s Access to Homes (PATH). Many of these people have personal, powerful stories of barriers to accessible, affordable housing. Many have been influenced by such stories.
Baatz says, “Being a part of this process at The Independence Center out of which PATH emerged has been life changing for me.” As for the group members, who essentially have chosen themselves, she tells, “I look up to them. They are all so articulate and talented and self-aware.”
Perhaps a mark of a true community movement, most PATH members happen not to be consumers of The Independence Center. PATH is still coalescing as a force, working on finding its common goal and long term vision. Broadly, this includes creating more opportunities for housing that meet people’s needs. The idea that everyone has a right to a space they call home is what motivates the members of PATH. PATH sees housing not as a problem, but through a positive lens: as a long term solution to many problems, one of which is the city’s homelessness problem.
While focused on creating long term solutions, PATH’s gauges its success by short term goals. The immediate goal of PATH is to see the Colorado Springs Sit/Lie City Ordinance fail. PATH is opposing this ordinance because it unfairly targets people who are homeless, and it would distract resources and energy from better solutions (namely, developing affordable and accessible housing). Making sitting illegal in certain places would negatively impact people with disabilities, and in the current draft, a person would have to provide “confirmation” of a medical disability as an affirmative defense.
During recent City Council meetings, various members of PATH showed up. Michael Hazard (PATH member with a background in law) shared on November 11, 2015 about the discrimination against the homeless in the Sit/Lie Ordinance and asked City Council to postpone the vote until a suitable alternative to Sit/Lie can be found. Kellee O’Brian (PATH member) spoke about her experience of being homeless. Baatz spoke about the shortage of over 20,000 units in Colorado Springs and offered solutions such as requesting the City Council to look at the Housing Trust Fund Project.
It remains to be seen what will happen with Sit/Lie Ordinance, but The Independence Center is engaging local government, advocating on behalf of people with disabilities. Answering the invitation for the community to join in advocacy, PATH has emerged as an active, engaged force campaigning for more affordable, accessible housing.
About The Independence Center
The Independence Center is a local nonprofit organization that provides traditional and self-directed home health care, independent living, and advocacy services for people with disabilities.  These services range from providing peer support, skills classes, and employment assistance to individual and systems advocacy. The IC’s mission is to work with people with disabilities, their families, and the community to create independence so all may thrive.]]>

First Annual Briefing for State Legislators Held at The Independence Center

State Rep. Teri Carver speaks at the First Annual Legislative Breakfast at The Independence Center

State Rep. Teri Carver speaks at the First Annual Legislative Breakfast at The Independence Center

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO, September 29, 2015 – The first annual Legislative Breakfast occurred at The Independence Center (The IC) September 28, 2015. Six state legislators attended the briefing where eight specific issues faced by people with disabilities were presented and discussed. Presentations on each issue were given by staff members of The Independence Center. Discussions included input from staff, legislators and The IC board members. The briefing was moderated by Patricia Yeager, CEO of The IC.

Issues on the table were housing, transit, employment, community transitions (referring to transition out of nursing homes into independent living), home modifications/ assistive technology, emergency preparedness, rural issues and home health. Each issue was framed as an opportunity for the legislators to observe that cost savings to the state and independent living for those with disabilities are not mutually exclusive.

“If we can get in the door, if we can get on the bus, if employers will hire us, we will be taxpayers,” Patricia Yeager, CEO stated regarding the need for accessibility in buildings, transportation, and the private employment sector.

The briefing took on a notable tone of dialogue, with legislators often providing comments, asking questions, and providing status updates regarding certain issues. Current issues were raised in this manner such as the status of CDOT Bustang collaboration with El Paso County and the impending merger of the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.


State Sen. Kent Lambert Speaks at the First Annual Legislative Breakfast at The IC

State Sen. Kent Lambert Speaks at the First Annual Legislative Breakfast at The IC

What became apparent during the briefing was the significant interrelationship between the issues, and that solutions to one issue may very well serve as solutions to other issues accordingly. For example, housing is interrelated with community transitions. Because the Pikes Peak region lacks affordable, accessible housing, oftentimes people with disabilities reside unnecessarily in nursing homes, costing the state thousands of dollars each month in Medicaid costs. Working to solve the problem of lack of affordable housing inventory will also help save money in Medicaid dollars to nursing homes.

The breakfast discussion remained largely non-political and incorporated facts as well as anecdotal stories. For instance, Rep. Terri Carver spoke of experience from her early work as a 19-year-old in home health care and Rep. Janak Joshi spoke of his experience as a physician treating patients with transportation needs in rural areas. The officials were clearly engaged, concerned, and expressed gratitude to The IC with an ovation at the conclusion.

State legislature attendees were Sen. Kent Lambert (R), Rep. Terri Carver (R), Rep. Janak Joshi (R), Rep. Pete Lee (D), Rep. Paul Lundeen (R) and Rep. Gordon Klingenshmitt (R).

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Reasonable Accommodation: Housing

Reasonable accommodation is a right individuals with disabilities have in regards to housing. According to the Supportive Housing and Homeless Programs (SHHP), a reasonable accommodation is a change, adaptation to a policy, program or services afforded to a person with a disability as defined under the federal civil rights law.
This means an apartment complex must allow an exception to a rule or policy if it would afford a tenant who is disabled an equal opportunity to use and enjoy an apartment at the complex. An accommodation that allows tenants who are disabled to experience the full benefit of tenancy must be made unless the accommodation imposes an undue financial or administrative burden on a housing provider.
Some examples of reasonable accommodation may include:

  • An apartment complex must make an exception to the “no pets” policy and allow a blind or visually impaired person, who is qualified to rent a unit, to live in the apartment with a guide dog.
  • If an apartment complex has a “first come, first served” parking policy for its tenants, the tenant can request that management grant a reasonable accommodation in its parking policy and reserve a parking space for them near their apartment, due to their disability.
  • A tenant who is disabled is allowed to have a live-in aid if required and necessary.
  • If a tenant has difficulty doing laundry and apartment complex has a rule that prohibits non-tenants from using the laundry rooms. If requested by the tenant, the apartment complex must allow a friend, family member, or personal care attendant to do the tenant’s laundry in the complex’s laundry rooms.

Our Independent Living Housing Specialist and Community Transition Service Coordinators shared what reasonable accommodation means to them and the consumers they work with.
“Reasonable accommodation is when a person is able to live independently within their own apartment, with a live-in aid, service animal or on the ground floor,” said Becky, an IL Housing Specialist.
Nicole, a Community Transition Service Coordinator, described reasonable for her as being able to look at an apartment or home for her consumers, and figure out how they can make the space more accessible.
“Getting to know people when you go to a place and getting a visual of what would it be like to be in a wheelchair preparing food in the kitchen, getting through doorways, getting in the bath, etc. More heightened awareness and sensitivity of what life is like,” Nicole said.
If you have additional questions, the we can help can answer your questions pertaining to reasonable accommodation in apartments. Please call them at 471-8181 if you have questions.


Disability Law Series: The Fair Housing Act

The road to civil liberties and rights for those with disabilities has been a long one.  Over the next few weeks, we will highlight some of the most influential Federal civil rights law that ensures equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination for housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, and national origin. This includes private housing, housing that receives Federal financial assistance, as well as State and local government housing.
The act states that is unlawful to discriminate the process of buying, renting or financing a home because of a disability, and this include discrimination by direct providers of housing, such as landlords and real estate companies.
If an individual has a physical or mental that limits one or more major life activities the landlord may not refuse to let the tenant make reasonable modifications to the dwelling or common use areas if necessary for the individual who is disabled to use the housing. Additionally, the landlord cannot be unwilling to to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or services if necessary for the disabled person to use the housing.
This can include not allowing a tenant to keep a guide dog because of the building’s no-pet policy. Another example is an apartment complex that offers tenants unassigned parking must honor a request from a mobility-impaired tenant for a reserved space near their apartment if necessary to assure that they can have access to their apartment.
For more information:
Disability Law Series: The Fair Housing Act | The Independence Center