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A Place in the World Report Takes Its Rightful Place in the World

Oh, the frustrations of not being able to find the words to describe what you want, speaking without being understood and others not appreciating what you need.

Through the years, this has been our son Matt’s experience. While his progress at every age over almost three decades has also been fortifying, confidence-building and empowering for him and his family, we still have a way to go.

During those same years, I, too, found it difficult to find the words and means to convey what Matt needed and what we wanted for him outside our family home. I was challenged to articulate a new approach to housing and community development options in comprehensible terms, recognizing there is no one-size-fits-all or diagnosis-specific approach.

Those experiences and more drove a new report, A Place in the World: Fueling Housing and Community Options for Adults with Autism and Other Neurodiversities. Led by First Place® AZ and the Autism Housing Network, the report offers a universal language for a guiding narrative to research, develop and achieve supportive housing solutions.

The groundbreaking 2020 report includes more than 150 terms to help guide people to better understand housing preferences, accessibility needs, supportive amenities, service delivery models and more. It aims to clearly define nomenclature and market segments for the benefit and application of all sectors; establish best practices and guiding principles; and drive crucial partnerships and policy decisions that address pressing needs compounded by the current housing crisis.

Last month, we introduced the study to pioneering leaders from across the country and around the world at the First Place Global Leadership Institute’s eighth semi-annual symposium—hosted webinar-style. Nearly 600 people registered for the event—a silver lining of this era as we connected with public, private, nonprofit and philanthropic leaders from nearly every state, about 300 cities and six countries.

It’s also a testament to the persistent, urgent need for housing and community solutions, the result of an unprecedented number of children with autism transitioning to adulthood and the stark reality of a disjointed, disconnected support system combined with limited housing options. Current data indicate more than one million U.S. adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, or I/DD—autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy—live with a caregiver over age 60.

The report raises the bar on a new generation of options so that individuals with different abilities and their families recognize that a diagnosis need not stand in the way of friends, jobs, supportive communities—and homes of their own.

Named for the 2016 PBS NewsHour series featuring Greater Phoenix as “the most autism-friendly city in the world,” A Place in the World is the sister study to the groundbreaking 2009 report, Opening Doors: A Discussion of Residential Options for Adults Living with Autism and Related Disorders, the first-ever study to focus on the housing challenges of adults with autism and other neurodiversities. Opening Doors resulted in the founding of First Place AZ, a real estate and community developer, and the Autism Housing Network, an online platform bringing together the best ideas and resources in housing for adults with autism and others with I/DD.

A Place in the World is a unique collaboration among a wide array of partners, including Arizona State University’s Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions and its Morrison Institute for Public Policy, the First Place Global Leadership Institute and its Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation Center for Public Policy, Autism Housing Network, and pioneering leaders from across the U.S. and around the globe.

Through a broad and more robust marketplace, individuals can better match their needs and interests with homes they choose, combined with natural supports and more formal long-term support services. Together, we can and will inform outcomes demonstrating what works, what needs to work better and how supportive policy can better align the interests of all sectors.

The report uses descriptive language defining features, amenities, locations, price points and economic realities in straightforward terms for consumers, developers, providers and funders. By aligning housing, long-term support services and community supports expressed in precise terms for the benefit of those poised to deliver, A Place in the World effectively fuels a dynamic marketplace of options.

Report sponsors include UnitedHealthcare Community Plan, the Phoenix IDA, the Arizona Community Foundation and Bill and Alyssa Sunderland, leaders who recognize the value of housing as a major social determinant of health and the need for a common language to inform, improve and launch a marketplace of more innovative housing.

Through the robust collaborations that made A Place in the World possible, we can—and will—fuel a new generation of real estate that promotes greater diversity, expands choice, drives solutions and yields more positive outcomes. Please be part of this journey and let us know how you see yourself becoming involved. Onward!

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