Texas Department of Housing & Community Affairs - Building Homes and Strengthening Communities

First TDHCA Project Access Housing Voucher Recipient Transitions to Community Living

(AUSTIN-12/3/02) The first Texan to transition from a nursing facility back into thecommunity under a voucher program administered in part by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) moved into her new apartment in earlyNovember. Through the combined efforts of TDHCA, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, and the Texas Department of Human Services, Carolyn Russell of Austin became the first successful participant in the Project Access Housing Choice Voucher Program.

Carolyn in wheelchair
After signing her lease, Carolyn leaves the leasing office eager to see her new apartment.

Project Access is a housing voucher pilot program developed by the U.S. Departmentof Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire. The voucher program helps low-income, non-elderly persons with disabilities transition from nursing facilities into the community by providing access to affordable housing and necessary supportive services.

"I feel so much less broken," Russell said as she began to settle into her new apartment. "The type of life in the nursing facility scares me. They tell you when you can eat and when you can sleep. I felt like a prisoner." Through Project Access, Russell now has an opportunity to live on her own terms, despite a mobility impairment and the use of only one arm. She receives a visit from a caretaker each day to help with her medical needs, shopping, and other tasks as needed.

Apartment complex
Carolyn moved into an Austin apartment funded through the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs' Housing Tax Credit Program.

The Project Access program was developed in response to the Olmstead v L.C. Supreme Court decision that requires states to provide services to persons with disabilities in community settings rather than in institutions. HUD provides rental assistance through its Section 8 Program, and HHS provides supportive services through Nursing Home Transition Grants and Medicaid waivers.

TDHCA received 35 Section 8 vouchers from HUD for this pilot program, and in May finalized a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between TDHCA, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, and the Texas Department of Human Services to administer the program. The MOU spells out the specific roles, responsibilities, and activities to be undertaken by each agency to ensure the successful implementation of Project Access.

Carolyn in wheelchair entering new apartment
Carolyn comes into her new apartment for the first time. "It's beautiful," were her first words upon entering.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission is the lead agency for Project Access in Texas and is responsible for coordinating efforts relating to the implementation of the program. The Department of Human Services is responsible for identifying individuals living in nursing facilities who are eligible to participate in the program and referring them to TDHCA, as well as for providing appropriate supportive services. TDHCA is responsible for ensuring individuals are eligible to receive a housing voucher and for transferring the voucher to the appropriate Public Housing Authority of the city or county where the individual wishes to live.

Eligible participants must reside in a nursing facility, be under the age of 62, express the desire to move from the facility and into the community, and have or will have the necessary supportive services available to the individual in the community.

In addition to these three state agencies, the successful implementation of Project Access also requires the cooperation and support of disability advocacy groups, other state agencies, and persons who provide services to the disabled. Without the support of these stakeholders, Project Access would still be in the planning stages and Russell still feeling like a prisoner.