The communities will include families and caregivers of their primary residents, people with developmental disabilities. They will be a blend of apartments, villas, group homes, and single-family homes with spaces for socializing, recreation, and vocational and educational activities. One village, Noah's Nest, has three homes near downtown Lakeland, Florida.
One obstacle the parents faced was a state law that prevented group homes from being established within 1,000 feet of each other, so they lobbied the Florida legislature to change the law. According to an article in the Miami Herald, April 27, 2010, they were opposed by advocates who claimed that the planned communities are institutions that segregate people from the rest of society:
"In our society, we call places like this institutions," said Kingsley Ross, who represents Sunrise community, a nonprofit organization catering to the developmentally disabled and the elderly. "People with developmental disabilities have to be in contact with good models of behavior. If you surround them with people that don't have normal types of behavior, what we are going to see is more people with bad behavior."
[Kingsley Ross, who worries so much about other people's behavior, is a registered lobbyist for the Autism Society of Florida and Sunrise Community, Inc., a non-profit provider of group homes and other services for people with disabilities and seniors.]
The family members, however, have a different view . Many of their loved-ones have already experienced "community living" and have found it to be isolating, not fulfilling, and even dangerous. Families are not trying to compete with options that work well for many people with disabilities, but to offer more options and choice based on the needs and preferences of their loved ones.
The law to rescind the restriction on group homes was passed and signed by Governor Crist on June 3rd, 2010. Well done, Florida parents!
[See also: Michigan group homes for severely disabled]