Good Works, Better Practices, Great Homes
An interactive guide to operating AIDS housing

Section I: SERVICES

F. PROMOTING PARTICIPANT AUTONOMY & INDEPENDENCE

Every participant in a supportive housing program has the inherent human right to be self-governing and self-determining. For people living in chronic poverty, this right can often be undermined by the complex systems they must negotiate simply to get by from day to day. For people living in poverty with HIV, the number of agencies, bureaucracies and systems to be negotiated can be enormously daunting. It is one of the challenges of supportive housing programs, not only to assist clients in navigating systems, but also to ensure that the program itself does not become just another bureaucracy.

In designing a program that promotes rather than undermines client autonomy, it is helpful to ask:

  • Does the program have a variety of effective ways of communicating with participants?
  • Does the program have a variety of effective ways of receiving communication from participants?
  • Are participants involved in program decision-making on a variety of levels?
  • Are participants leaders in their own care, life plans, and goals?

Promoting client autonomy can take different forms for different kinds of programs. For both supported living and independent living programs, the case management philosophy is a fundamental place where the client's right to self-govern can be nurtured. In supported living programs, resident participation in setting and implementing the rules of community life promote a feeling of ownership among all residents which enhances the self-directed living of each individual.  In both types of programs open communication and client input into the agency and program functioning can give the client a feeling of ownership and help further success and stability.

Participants of our programs should be encouraged and supported to pursue their educational and vocational goals. Programs should take advantage of “mainstream” education and training resources such as CTWorks One Stop Career Centers and regional community colleges as well as working with programs that offer additional support to our residents such as specialized programs supported by the Department of Mental Health and Addiction services. Clients who are unable to work because of their health should be given options and support for activities that broaden them socially as well intellectually including to volunteer or to provide peer support.

Pains should also be taken to promote social cohesion and unity among residents sharing living space, or programs services.  Residents of congregate living programs may be involved in screening their potential housemates.  Routine group activities such as social or educational outings, house meetings or in-house trainings or classes may help support residents and promote harmony.  For residents of scattered site apartments, group trainings or meetings about advocacy or program or tenancy issues are a way to bring residents together on a regular basis for bonding and to promote program harmony.

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