The town I live in, the town Will used to live in, has a group home run by the Ray Graham Association for Persons with Disabilities. It’s called Sunrise Courts. It was Will’s home for the first two years or so after he joined them. He hated it. Understaffed by poorly trained people, it provided none of the supports Will and his family had been promised it would have. He fought to get out – fought ceaselessly – and left.
Because we are a small community, I know and encounter some of the other residents of the home regularly. I have changed their names here to protect their privacy. Ryan used to live in a much larger town, and in a condominium complex especially adapted for people with disabilities. Ryan had been in a car accident and is now confined to a motorized wheelchair. In the other community, he could get himself to his job, shop by himself, and utilize the much larger selection of community supports – a huge library, numerous stores, and so forth. But Ray Graham didn’t find it profitable to continue having Ryan live there, and moved him to Sunrise Courts. Ryan had to leave his job and the community that had allowed him to function quite independently.
Another resident, Gene, is a well known figure in town. He is always friendly and tries hard to be positive, but finds himself struggling to do so. No work in the workshops, no staff to transport him anywhere, he often looks unkempt and sometimes unwell. Recently he told me he was going to attend a free movie that he wasn’t even interested in. “It’s better than nothing….,” he offered, sadly. “But I wish there were work in the workshops. It gets boring….”
There are many “Ryans” and “Genes” at Sunrise Courts. Valuable human beings who have potential that is being ignored by the Ray Graham Association, all while they collect government funds to provide support for them. Do we define “appropriate support for persons with disabilities” as “minimally caring for their most basic human needs” while ignoring and neglecting everything that most of us would identify as essential quality of life issues? Will was a soldier in a war that he determined he would win or die fighting. And he won, but at great personal cost, and only after many years of suffering. It was a war he should never have had to fight at all. The goals he fought for should be rights belonging to every single human being on the planet. The war exists because there are those who find it is profitable to exploit the disabled and the taxpaying public with promises of paths to independence, skill training, and a means to a self -directed life, take public and private money offered on those promises, and provide only minimal custodial care while encouraging yet more (profitable) dependence. It’s social service “bait and switch,” with the victims being the taxpayers of Illinois, those who care about their loved ones with disabilities, and most of all, the irreplaceable human beings who are being warehoused in human parking garages instead of being supported while they grow into the unique individuals they were meant to be.
For Will, who changed my life in every possible way, all for the better, I seek justice. For all those who are still where he was, I seek rescue and restitution.