In the Sunday newspapers this week, I read two very different articles concerning people with developmental disabilities.

The first, an article by Susan K. Livio in the Newark Star Ledger, addressed a pervasive problem with a grim prognosis for those with developmental disabilities. In jerseys-disabled-wait-years-for-homes, Ms. Livio recounts a common reality of those hoping to obtain housing for a developmentally disabled family member through the New Jersey Division of Developmental Disabilities (“DDD”). The disabled and their loved ones look to this state program to integrate the developmentally disabled into the community. However, through a recently developed annual notification procedure, many disabled adults and their families have received news that, after being on a wait list, often for many years, their positions on those wait lists have risen only slightly. Particularly given the “cold reality of state economics,” the people in the article saw little hope of ever receiving DDD placement, which is now described as “nearly dormant,” until their parents are too old or sick to care for them and they receive emergency placement (ordinarily not in the environment they had hoped for). The article quotes those involved as urging families to increase lobbying to the state, and to improve the network of communications among New Jersey’s families of the developmentally disabled, in hopes of finding increased state support or private group initiatives.

The second article, opening-doors-for-the-disabled, by Antoinette Martin in the New York Times, addresses a “silver lining” of the bleak housing market in New Jersey: the availability of lower cost housing options, through private organizations, for the developmentally disabled. It highlights Our House, a non-profit organization that buys single family homes in suburban communities and converts them to group housing for the developmentally disabled. (On a personal note, I have worked with Michelle Wernsing and others from Our House, and I never cease to be impressed by their level of experience, dedication and support for those with developmental disabilities). The efforts of Our House have gained momentum recently, thanks in large part to the declining housing market as well as revisions to New Jersey’s Affordable Housing regulations. Our House is financed through grants and donations and through the state, and residents are provided with support and employment services in addition to a place to live more independently in the community.

The juxtaposition of these two articles on my Sunday coffee table led me to wonder whether, as one of the parents in the Star Ledger article suggests, the dismal state outlook would get the developmentally disabled, their families, and their communities, sufficiently “riled up” that progress results, from private initiatives such as Our House if not from Trenton. Let’s hope that the old adage is true, and that when one door closes, another one opens.