Persons with a disability were excluded in the past from society and housed in distant and detached institutions. The currently accepted position is that persons with a disability belong in society, just like any other person, and that it is the state’s duty to integrate these persons and include them in society. This position includes the person’s right to housing in the community.
This right is supported in the 1998 Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities Law, which states that one of its goals is to anchor the rights of persons with a disability to equal and active participation in society in all areas of life. Additional goals are to enable persons with a disability to live their lives as independently as possible, with privacy and dignity, while realizing their full potential. The law also states that persons with a disability will receive services and rights within the framework of services for the general population, as well as the principle that service will be provided at a reasonable distance from the individual’s place of residence.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified by the State of Israel in 2012, also emphasizes the right of a person to live independently and be included in the community (Article 19). This includes the right to choose the nature of their place of residence as well as with whom they live, just like any other person, while providing required community services in order to make this possible.
Several laws include a preference for housing in the community, especially for persons with an intellectual or mental disability.
About 20,000 persons with a disability currently live in Israel in institutions and in dedicated housing frameworks of both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services.
There are currently 12,574 persons with a disability in the Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services housing frameworks (served by the Rehabilitation Division, the Intellectual Developmental Disability Division and the Autism Unit). Among them, only about 1,400 persons with a disability live in the community, in apartments of up to 6 residents.
There are about 3,500 beds in psychiatric hospitals, with about 1,200 persons living in these hospitals for long periods of time. About 600 persons reside in "treatment residences".
About 10,000 persons with a mental disability receive housing services from the Ministry of Health Rehabilitation Division. These persons reside in hostels, community housing frameworks (supporting communities) and sheltered housing. Only some of these settings meet human rights criteria for "housing in the community".
Studies show that the transition to living in apartments in the community leads to improvement in quality of life and in behavior and social relationships, as well as to increased decision making ability, a strengthened relationship with the family and reduced use of psychiatric medication.
Individuals living in apartments in the community are usually geographically closer to their family members, which means that they can see them more frequently and strengthen family relationships.
Community housing frameworks must include a continuum of services, including employment and leisure in the community, and access to public transportation, public buildings and to the entire urban space. For example, going out to cafés and participating in integrated classes at the community center. Furthermore, regular community services such as health clinics must provide adjusted services to persons with a disability in accordance with their varying needs.
It should be noted that there are individuals who live in institutions most of their life, and who consider these institutions their home.
This is where they feel most familiar and comfortable, and obviously it would not be appropriate to force these persons to change their way of life. Nonetheless, both options should be pursued concurrently.
An examination should be conducted on a continuous basis as to whether there are persons in institutions that can and would like to live in the community, while receiving the support they need.
Furthermore, every candidate for placement in a community residential framework should be evaluated in-depth, with a clear preference for the community over institutional housing. At the same time, there is a need to ensure that the community housing framework properly meets these individuals' needs. The individual’s right to choose among the various alternatives must be maintained.
We believe that, in general, the smaller the framework the better its response to the person’s individual needs and the more opportunities it offers for self-realization and self-expression. We also believe that individuals know what they need and what is best for them.
Accordingly, there is a need to design a range of residential alternatives, accompanied by the services and support required by persons living in the community. Thus, all persons with a disability interested in living in the community will be able to do so.
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