Navigating Life as we Know It

13. At Home with The Kelsey

December 09, 2020 Envision Media Group Season 1 Episode 13
Navigating Life as we Know It
13. At Home with The Kelsey
Chapters
Navigating Life as we Know It
13. At Home with The Kelsey
Dec 09, 2020 Season 1 Episode 13
Envision Media Group
Today NLAWKI Welcomes Micaela Connery, CEO and founder of The Kelsey.  Micaela will share their work in advancing disability-forward housing solutions through development, advocacy, and partnerships that open doors
to more affordable homes and opportunities for everyone.  The Kelsey's unique approach reinvents the wheel of housing strategies by creating inclusive, affordable and accessible housing via a collaborative process that includes stakeholder engagement.  There are many paths to the complex problem of affordable and inclusive housing, and this is one of them. We look forward to presenting more innovative solutions like The Kelsey and encouraging consumer involvement in the creative process.
Show Notes Transcript
Today NLAWKI Welcomes Micaela Connery, CEO and founder of The Kelsey.  Micaela will share their work in advancing disability-forward housing solutions through development, advocacy, and partnerships that open doors
to more affordable homes and opportunities for everyone.  The Kelsey's unique approach reinvents the wheel of housing strategies by creating inclusive, affordable and accessible housing via a collaborative process that includes stakeholder engagement.  There are many paths to the complex problem of affordable and inclusive housing, and this is one of them. We look forward to presenting more innovative solutions like The Kelsey and encouraging consumer involvement in the creative process.
Steve:

Hi, Steve here. How many times have you heard the expression? There's no need to reinvent the wheel? Plenty I'm sure the message behind this statement is that answers the new challenges are discovered merely through a manipulation of old solutions make a few changes here and adaptation there, and we are all good. But is that always true? Or is it possible that sometime is merely tweaking the wheel perpetuates the underlying problem, it may prevent us from considering a whole new universe of possibilities, it can place limitations on our vision. Today we'll learn how to approach a persistent problem concerning affordable housing for people with disabilities and turn that problem into an exciting opportunity for inclusion that enhances the quality of life for everyone in the community. Our guest today is social change advocate mckaela, Connery, founder and CEO of qlc, headquartered in San Francisco, California. mckaela and her team at the Kelsey are not merely dealing in concepts and theories, they are moving forward collaboratively with advocates, allies and community leaders to fill a need across the country. Now let's move on to our interview with mckeel Academy. This is navigating life as we know it and I'm your host Steve Johnson. Today, our guest is Michaela Connery, the founder and CEO of the Kelsey a San Francisco based nonprofit with a very audacious strategy and I want to read this the Kelsey accelerates and advocates for housing that is inclusive of people with and without disabilities of all incomes. We are an impact driven affordable housing startup working to execute new housing models effectively deploy capital shortened timelines, design, high quality housing that is fully inclusive to people of all abilities and incomes and advance our field to make more possible. That sounds like a lot. But if you don't aim high, you don't you don't achieve much right. mckaela Welcome to navigating life as we know it.

Micaela Connery:

Awesome. Thank you. Thanks for having me here. I'm excited to connect and share about our work.

Steve:

That's great. I heard you give a keynote address at the symposium on community partnerships sponsored by the Center for Independent futures in Skokie, Illinois. That was back in the pre Covidien era of October 2018. Some people might say your talk was innovative, and I agree with him, but I would take it one step further. And I'd call it visionary. Today, I want to explore the ideas you covered in that presentation. But first, would you please share a little history with us tell us about the Kelsey and how it came to be?

Unknown:

Yeah, so like you, Steve, my work in this really started as a family member of somebody with a disability, my cousin Kelsey, from the organization name, she and I grew up just born three months apart and really went through every milestone in life together in the way that relationships are you both sort of influence each other's lives, and Kelsey influenced my life and how I think about the world. And they're pretty impactful ways. And when I was younger, that was really thinking about things like why summer camps are an inclusive and supportive of people with disabilities, and what relationships and friends and going out and after school activities, and any number of those things look like for people with disabilities. But as I got older, the question really started to be focused on this issue of housing and community life as an adult with Kelsey kind of informing my approach in this and Kelsey, you know, had pretty high support me but could and value to live with people with disabilities that were both similar and different than her and people without disabilities. And so with that in mind, and then Kelsey, the influence on my life really started for our research perspective to try to understand what was driving the lack of housing for people with disabilities and what solution for were working or not working or could be scaled to to address this. And from that really formed the Kelsey as what we thought as a response to some key market gaps, which happy to talk about further. But as you articulated about our mission, it was really driven by two things. One was to actually get housing developed that was fully inclusive, accessible and affordable for people without disabilities. And then the second was to address the broader systems change policy and field building to make sure that the Kelsie wasn't just a few cool housing developments, but that we were really a social change organization, advancing a sector and a model and collaborative groups of people to move forward and actually get disability inclusive housing created at scale across the country. What I

Steve:

really appreciate too, is that I know you're trying to do this in the San Francisco area and affordable is a whole different definition in San Francisco, but You do have a wider vision than that in otherwise you wouldn't have been talking in Chicago on October 2018.

Unknown:

Yeah, for sure. And I think, too, it was not by accident that we started this work in the Bay Area. We did it for two reasons. One is that San Francisco, and the Bay Area in general Berkeley, and Oakland and all over our region is really a beautiful, historical mecca for disability rights and Disability Justice advocates and some real important moments in the disability rights movement kind of incubated or launched in the Bay Area. And so that made this region besides it's also foundations are under General, inclusivity and diversity. So it brought that positive, but then on the flip side, the Bay Area, as you allude to, is perhaps the most challenging affordable housing market in the country. So we did have this view that if we can create a model or a set of models on the work in the Bay Area, those could be easily scaled to other markets elsewhere,

Steve:

it would be hard for someone to complain in Chicago about the price of real estate, if you make it work in San Francisco, I get your point, correct. I mean, what I also really appreciate in the message that you gave you talked about, quite often people see a problem, and they strive for solutions. But this problem you see as being a great opportunity. And you mentioned that in the strategy. Yeah, it's something that adds to and strengthens and prospers the entire community. And it's probably very difficult for some people to see that because we have our paradigms that we think of when it comes to disability or other biases. But it would be easy for easier, I'd say for people who live with disability in their family, because they're closer to the subject to understand what their their loved ones want out of life. And it's really what everybody else wants. And the best place to achieve those goals and realize those dreams is with everybody else, and the same resources that they're using. Use a term in the presentation you gave in Skokie inclusion natives. And that refers to a demographic of which I believe you belong because you said you grew up. You grew up in a world in which there was inclusion. Now I'm in my mid to late 60s. And when I was in school, there were no wheelchairs. There were no people with crutches, there were no people with disabilities whatsoever. And they all look like me, I lived in a white suburb of Chicago. And disability was not an ever present feature. But you have grown up is like you said an inclusion native. It's been common to make friends and see people that are of different abilities. you comment on that a little bit and how that is helped propel you on this career path?

Unknown:

Yeah, I just a couple of things is that first to your point around a, the inclusion natives, I think it's a it's a term that I use often, which is that inclusion, for people that are kind of you know, post, particularly post Ida, the interest with Disabilities Education Act, when it was increasing that people, students with disabilities were educated in classrooms alongside students without disabilities. And then at the same time, we saw just so many extracurricular and community and other programs that were about disability inclusion and access. And then we also saw the leadership of some incredible disability rights advocates who fought around issues that for people that grew up in a certain generation sort of, on the older end of that, but me and after is that inclusion was not something that was like unusual or strange, it was just expected that you would go to school and be or be in community programs or do whatever, and have people with disabilities just like you were without people of different races or genders or sexual orientations. And so, we and we found this very specifically in unified theater where our young people would graduate from unified theater with with without disabilities, and then be kind of shocked and in many ways, very saddened by the fact that those inclusive experience didn't carry over into adulthood. And so it strikes me that there's nobody right now building particularly a housing product for inclusion natives who desire both one diverse and and communities that value difference both on the disability side, but on any kind of diversity. She was communities that have some sort of social value proposition that don't just you know, aren't about just the bottom line and the buck, but actually about doing something good for the world. And three that fosters some kind of connection and mutual support culture. And so those are what I believe folks of my generation who are increasingly living in cities and increasingly single for longer those with and without disabilities that they desire out of their housing product and, and it's not being created. And so how can we create disability inclusive housing that both meet the need for Accessible affordable housing for people with disabilities, but also meets this broader broader market need for these kind of connected communities. And then that really is where the opportunity lies. And, frankly, I will just say one of the things that we're learning in real time and one of the Kelsey values as an organization is like, where does sort of it being really one of our values is being really open about sort of where we're learning and where we hit roadblocks. And I will say, we've been learning in real time at our San Jose project, that the idea of financing and developing a community that's not for sort of one category of income, or one type of disability or not, disability is like a lot more challenging than it should be. So even though people want these diverse mixed communities, it's definitely sometimes an uphill battle to make the financing sources work to meet those goals, too. So that's something we're working on real time. But bottom line is, we know that demand there is there for those kind of communities. And we just need to create the structures and products and financing sources to make those possible.

Steve:

Well, we are all cheering for you. Because if you find out how to work out the financing, and it works in San Francisco, or in San Jose, or any place in California, for that matter, it's probably going to work in Michigan, too. I don't want to go way back a little bit. You mentioned unified theater, and we didn't quite define what it is I know from your talk, but what was the origin the unified theater and you said it gave expectations of of inclusiveness to a number of high school youth? How did unified theater come about?

Unknown:

theater was a nonprofit I founded when I was a sophomore in high school, and its mission was to raise to create inclusive student led arts programs for students with and without disabilities. It still operates as a program of a national actually international not for profit kids included together a great organization that everybody should look up. So unified theater has now been acquired and brought into them as one of their many programs that they offer to youth and teens without disabilities as inclusive extracurricular and community program. And I'll just note, one of the interesting things of unified theater as it relates to housing is that when we started unified theater, you know, back in 2002, when I was starting that first program, what made unified theater unique was the fact that it was disability inclusive. It also was student led and student directed and student written. And I was saying now, what's really amazing and what I hope to be the case that housing is 18 years after our founding of unified theater. Now Actually, there are a lot of programs within the schools where unified theater operates that are disability inclusive, and in fact, not even naming that their disability includes them, they just are that by default, because every program should be. And what makes unify theatre unique is actually the fact that it's student read and student directed and student written. And so I think about that often as it applies to the qlc, which is up front in the first years, we need to be very explicit and direct on the fact that we're focusing on disability inclusive, but my vision and my dream is that 15 years from now, actually being a disability inclusive housing project won't actually be unique, it'll just be of course, every project is disability inclusive, and affordable and accessible. And that actually what will make the qlc unique is how it operates its programming or its design elements on site. But actually being disability inclusive wouldn't be anything that's special about housing, because of course, all housing should be that

Steve:

it would be kind of like somebody saying, Oh, my gosh, this building has an elevator, or we take things for granted after a while. And really, inclusion should be something we take for granted, rather than something that we have to put a spotlight on and say, Wow, this is not inclusive, it should be a given. And what a great place to begin. And you have got to be the only person that I have ever met who formed the nonprofit as a sophomore in high school, that probably gave a little indication as to your life chorus right there. And I can see how the connection between unified Theatre in the Kelsey would would give you the idea that this is something that you start that perpetuates itself, because the need is self evident. It's going to catch on other places too, because some people are just waiting for someone to blaze the first trail. And I think that's what you're doing. That's why I mentioned what you had to say was very visionary. Now, you talked about three things to face, there is realities, there's opportunities, and there's challenges. Could you go over a little bit about the realities, again,

Unknown:

while you're putting me on the project? Exactly what I said in that presentation, but I will just tell you the reality that, that I think I'm to be true is that the reality is that we people with disabilities need housing and are among the most disenfranchised in housing of any population, both on sort of the fact that their income that we give on SSI allows nobody to live in any US market, the fact that people disability face higher housing discrimination than any other population and that people with disabilities are still having to fight upstream again, histories of kind of institutional bias and institutionalization that makes you know, getting housing on the radar more challenging. So that's the reality. But the other reality is that urban and sort of housing development in cities needs to be rethought in general and affordable housing and market rate housing cities. And that will only become even more true in light of kind of COVID. And how we think about recovery from that. And I think the challenges are definitely around how the funding is allocated and where the resources are, this has just not been an area that is invested in and is not an area where funders have put focus. And I think that's really driven by kind of two things. One is just the fact that to the point of institutional bias that there is decoupling of housing and services and kind of the way that we need to do that. But sort of the Assumption with histories of more group homes or models where the housing and services are tied together are served public funders still are taking a while to come up to speed, and thinking about disability housing, and people with disabilities as a population that their public subsidy tenant should go to serve, ensure we do have programs that are trying to change that. But even in the most recent discussion around the largest federal program to house people for disability was just not a there hasn't been a real push for dollars there. And the second challenge we face is this assumption that people with disabilities are taken care of either by their families or by the government. And I think the family one is a super interesting challenge that we need to overcome, which is that I spend, I would say, in less than the last year because we've been really heads down moving our projects forward. But when I first started this work, I spent a lot of time talking to different community groups and people trying to build housing, and they were predominantly if not entirely parent LED and parent driven. And I think the role of parents in this process is both crucial and beautiful. I think parents can be great allies and partners in building housing. But that comes with two really significant challenges. The first being that as parents are the leaders of this, there is an assumption that parents just need to figure this out for their kids. And so we need to figure out how to invite others into the tent, housing developers, funders, young entrepreneurs, public agencies, all of that alongside parents and to is the real sort of equity issue with the parent driven models, which is that the reality is the parents who are able to either put the time expertise or financial resources, the last one being particularly important into developing new housing project or into buying into new housing projects are disproportionately middle to high income and disproportionately white. And so we do have a real challenge of I was shocked in visiting different visibility housing communities across the country, and still is when I go to convening around, you know, different, you know, housing groups, or autism groups or syndrome groups, or any of these disability parent groups, that you would think that a person with disabilities, particularly developmental disability was a white middle high income person, and our statistics show that is very much not the case. And so how do we make sure that we address this challenge of racial and economic equity within what we what we do, and I won't harp on the opportunity again, because I think that we touched on that with the inclusion native, but just, you know, first and foremost, that the Kelsey takes a strong stance and centering disabled leaders in our work. And one of the things that I've learned from disability rights leaders and people with disabilities is, you know, obviously, the difference between a social and a medical model of disability. And I think that applies very much to housing, which is, you know, the medical model, sort of looking at a care thing, we're building housing to, you know, help people with disabilities, you know, for them, they need to be taken care of, versus a social model to be able to say, No, no, no, like, our housing has been flawed in its design and development and financing for anybody, particularly for people with disabilities. And what we need to do is change the way that we create housing so that it is more accessible, affordable and inclusive to people with disabilities. And we don't do that as charity to help people with disabilities, we do it as strategy to just make better community for all people. Because when we push out people with disabilities from where we live, or where we work, or where we're educated, we inherently not only doing an injustice to those individuals, but we do a disservice to our whole communities. And so I do think that building inclusive connected, you know, accessible housing is just an opportunity for better housing for everybody. Although I would note too, that on on accessible design and inclusive design, and we're working through this on some of our design standards, that we would be not fully painting a picture if we didn't talk about accessibility beyond sort of mobility and physical spaces, but thinking of the broad levels of design, which are impacted by accessibility, everything from how building is located is on site amenities as community spaces, obviously things like the ones you just drive on site staffing, its security or not security, how residents interact with the faith. And so you know, we're really trying to think about accessibility in the broadest sense of the term for that

Steve:

you brought up something else in the conversation. Back in Skokie, about reinventing the wheel, and you ended the whole program by saying it's time to reinvent the wheel. Because whenever you're changing things or tweaking something, what you're basically doing is perpetuating the same problem. And most of the models we currently have right here are iterations of the institutional model. And I guess you don't really see that at ground level when you're looking at housing for your child. But when you take a look at it from stepping back, and you can see the institution was one way of providing care for a group of people, and we're doing the same thing. And rather than including them, we're providing a solution for them, you brought up also that parents seem to think that if you create this housing model, it's going to work at 22, it's going to work at 45. And we'll be the same at 70. And it isn't for any of us. So we're not really creating a housing environment where people could go from one to the other, and have them all be accepting and, and be inclusive as they age, because they might not stay in the same place. Yeah, you've, you've mentioned moving around a bit. And I've lived in five houses in three different states in the last 30 years. So that is something which we have to keep in mind also, when it comes to doing this. And that's one of the problems with the problems with parent led housing is, and I know this because I am one, we're creating this with our own bias for safety, and to make sure they're taken care of, and we're not allowing them the dignity of failure, or the dignity of taking risks.

Unknown:

Yeah, and that's such a complex, even point. And, you know, I'm grateful for your sort of, you know, vulnerability and even sharing yourself as a parent, because it's something I don't have children yet. And I, you know, but I know parents, but you're actually now with my sister and her two young children, and I see parents and, you know, it is just such a life giving. And all you want to do is make life the best possible for your kids as possible. That's any parents and the digging, be able to do that, as parents is a gift, we need to allow them and support them. And so I do think constantly in my role as a advocate, as a founder of it's not a it's a really careful balance of honoring the again, critical life giving the important role that parents have, but also opening it up to say where my parents have blind spots based on what it means to be a parent that might make it harder, or might make it more risk averse, or might make it more structured around housing. And so it's not an easy, I have not figured out how to have that conversation perfectly. The only thing I can say that is so true, though in this area is why I am deeply committed to sort of on a personal and organizational level is mentoring and uplifting and supporting new generations of leaders with disabilities and without disabilities who can actually be carrying this movement forward so that it doesn't rest on the shoulders of parents. Because I think that the reality has been so far that parents are the only ones who feel like they're and they're working on this. And so we have to change that and evolve that. But I think you bring up two other points in this too. One is this idea that one size does not fit all, nor does one size, fit every stage of life. And so you might do what you want, as a you know, 22 year old versus as a 50 year old versus as an eight year old, you know, might look very differently, or might be the same throughout phases, depending on who you are as a person. And so we really worked hard at the calcium continue to work hard is like what are the key elements and features and programmatic and values that do need to be universal that whether you are a community of 12 people that is more targeted at older adults, or you are a community of 100 people that more young families are your co living community for young professionals that it all of which could be disability inclusive, those communities will probably design and operate and look very different, which is good and important and appropriate. But are there certain values mixed within all of those that that make it the truest and most progressive form of inclusive? And how do we continue to iterate and push on those values because they're not static, they could change project to project year to year. So for now, how they Kelsey, you have a Kelsey named those things as there needs to be some component of affordability and it makes a difference for our organization and needs to have some component of affordability as well, including deep affordability, but it needs to be mixed income so that a diversity of incomes of people of different incomes can live there. And needs to be designed with accessibility in mind, particularly around visibility so that a person with any type of disability could get through and access to community as well as live there in certain units and located in a place that's accessible to and links to programs, services, recreation, job, transit, all of those things. And then third is the inclusivity which is that it includes intentional on site amenities and spaces to support community connection and neighbors knowing and enjoying life with one another and also on site staffing to support both resident connection to each other resonant connection to the broader community. And where needed resonant connection to services and circles of support and other types of programs like that. And so we tried to define those within those guardrails, you could have many different diversity of community types that still check all three of those boxes, is it affordable, is it accessible, and it's an inclusive, and then just to your reinvent the wheel point, it's something I contemplate a lot is by and how to honor space for both, which is, again, I do believe strongly that we have where we have failed on disability, inclusive housing is really a lack of imagination, because we have defaulted to here's what institutions look like a sort of a small institution. So it's group homes, and now we're trying to like put groups on within building. And so we're just sort of like kind of iterating and not to again, say anything negative about group homes whatsoever, my cousin Kelsey lived in a wonderful, and I've been to many of, you know, great group homes, so they can be wonderful places. But just the the reality of talking about that progression is that that's a real lack of imagination that we've kind of just did minor tweaks on the same thing. So what would it look like to start from the beginning with people with disabilities and their family members and their caretakers and say, if you could design something of your dreams, what would that look like and don't be limited by here are the existing things that are out there, and you have to design something that looks for is is a is a next phase of what's already existing yet, in the same moment, as we say, Don't reinvent the wheel design something with imagination, Human Centered Design from the start, you can also honor which I do very much leaders and pioneers and existing organizations of whom show shoulders you stand on, because you know, I look to existing leaders in this field and what progress they've had, and where you know, they've had wins or where they've come up short, or where they want to expand. And so doing so you know, you can do both, and which is not to, which is not to, you know, throw away everybody who's done work today, but to say, I honor what you've done, you were applying what you did 10 years ago with pioneering and now we're saying, What's next, and let's look for the next thing, or what you did three years ago, is pioneering and I can only hope that somebody comes up to me and five years or 10 years and says, actually, here's the next trade, Michaela, that we need to go on. And actually you You missed the mark, and we have even a new frontier to push to build the most progressive, inclusive community.

Steve:

And I think you would take that as a compliment.

Unknown:

Or an extreme compliment. Yeah,

Steve:

you know, it's, it's, it's always it's a path. It's not a destination, you had mentioned about honoring the generations that have done things 510 20 years ago or whatever moving forward, you also brought up the one of the critical issues, the lack of direct service professionals, which are critical in the fact that who is the next generation of leaders in this particular industry, because many of them you mentioned, are much older, they're nearing retirement, or they're maybe past retirement, and yet they continue to go on, but there's not another generation, they pick it up. And that could be by bringing in direct support professionals as part of a career path. And that is what it's going to take to put some oxygen into some of these these movements and make it possible to continue to expand as I as I see it.

Unknown:

Yeah, absolutely. And, and we the Kelsey, I would not, I'm sort of taking off my Kelsey to hat and putting my community advocate who cares about disability rights in the future of our field. You know, because we don't really lean heavily into the sides of ways we talk about what the Kelsey creates the just service ready service link housing. So we coordinate with and talk to service providers about how we, as a housing developer can build housing that that is the most advanced done progressive Person Centered choice services, but also, you know, structurally make it more efficient and easy for people to deliver services. So we think about how that impacts but I wouldn't say that the field of DSPs is something we think about on a regular basis. But I've actually worked with two colleagues and friends in the Bay Area on an initial grant that we a little mini side grant program to look at the field of disability service providers and professionals. And yeah, we there is so much work to be done there, I think real opportunities to do innovative models of you know, building a pipeline for people working in the disability services field. And it has to do with a lot of things that has to do with one thinking about the culture of our sector. And I actually think that in the same way we talk about opportunities in housing, that are disability inclusive, and also appealing to everybody, I believe wholeheartedly that if we continue to lean into a more progressive, person centered, innovation driven flexible field that it's actually in the best interest of people with disabilities receiving services, it's also much more appealing to somebody working in that field. And so I think that as we evolve our sector, it should make it more appealing, you know, the most progressive form of services should be also the most appealing for people to step into that field, I think the next piece is thinking about growth within the sector. And that's how we look at both the valuing people who are, you know, lifelong direct service providers, but also giving people a pipeline to go from a service provider to industry managers, or leaders or directors and organizations. And And then third is I'm really interested in kind of a core model. And, and what, and this is the half baked idea. So I will just stay here, which is like, what would it look like to create like a AmeriCorps Teach for America type model, where there's an idea that you go and work as a young person as a direct support professional for, you know, three to five years and and then go on to other things that that I think that there's something interesting about that, I would leave it to the experts in that field to think about the potential risks and benefits of that. But the parts for me that's really interesting on that as one, you're getting your retention issue, it's all for because you're constantly getting a fresh new pipeline of people coming through and to, I think it's a really appealing idea to have people send an early part of their career, working directly supporting a person with disabilities, and then going on to doing whatever they do, whether that be housing development, or thinking or education or other social services, because they now have a real important perspective on the value and experience of people with disabilities that they can bring in to their work broadly. So I don't think it's an easy issue to solve. But I think there's so many opportunities to advance that sector for the better for everybody. And I think the last thing I'll say, and we're seeing it in our housing too, is like treasure, what you measure measure what you treasure. And so thinking about how we evaluate success in these different programs, I was really struck when I visited different disability housing also like that affordable housing communities in general, that a lot came down to like a per unit cost or a per person cost or an hourly rate. And we see great study of that conversation California all the time, I feel it's incredibly important that people who work in this sector are competitively and appropriately paid. And yet at the same idea, I do think that when I talk to my peers, there are a lot of people who work in social justice and social change work that aren't paid super high rates, but they do it because they love the work. And so I don't think it's just a matter of Oh, if you pay professional service providers higher, therefore you've solved the service issue, I think that it has to be a pain payment, but also thinking about the structures and the systems and how people experience that. It's not as easy as just giving people a $5 an hour rate.

Steve:

Oh, absolutely. People that work in that particular industry for a service are doing it for a purpose. They're doing that to get rich, but they should be appropriately paid, because it shouldn't be a sacrifice if they want to raise families and have needs of their own also. But the idea of developing more interest and more energy around providing the backup that's needed to create the housing and create the living experience is very important. You mentioned about the choice Care Access, three models have been used in the past care was number one, I guess choice was seems to be the last one, the emphasis is currently to have access first choice second and then provide the care, just a matter of making sure that the care is available when they've made the access available. And they have choice. I understand that can't be part of what you're doing. But it's something that runs parallel to it.

Unknown:

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And I think that the point of the care choice access, which is up on our Learning Center, that Kelsey which we'll send you the link is this idea that you have to start to with you we so often front end with how do we care for people and then never actually think about how do we how did that give people choice and then access to the broader community or the opportunities that they desire. And so instead, it's really important to start with the person and say, like, what, like giving you the fullest option of what you can have access to opening up access as big and as huge as possible to make those options as plentiful as possible. And giving that person the choice about what they want within those those access points that they have now multiple options and not just one, you can have one choice with one option, and brand making sure that we fill that in with the care that they need to be, you know, driving happy, safe and successful in that instead of starting the other direction, which is starting to immediately limit access and choice by focusing on Oh, well they need this level of care. Here's where we narrow in there are there are options for that and ultimately, many people are left with no option. With

Steve:

that we're gonna take a short break and when we come back, I want to talk about the Kelsey Air Station and the Kelsey Civic Center two projects that that Kelsey is working on, and we'll be back in just a minute.

Alex Johnson:

Thank you for tuning in to navigating life as we know it. This is Alex producer here with your mid episode announcements and seventh inning stretch. Let's get up and do some jumping jacks. First off I'd like to thank everyone who has helped us with our production process from beginning to end. Secondly, we would love it if you join our community on Facebook, we have a group and a page dedicated to navigating life as we know it, where we try to post helpful articles and useful information and hopefully network and also get answers. Whenever we have questions like what topics should we investigate gathering questions on topics like social security and state Medicaid and other interactions helps us find information and make better episodes for you. So tune in and help us grow the show. Lastly, our website is going to get a little bit more stuff on it. If you go to our web page, you'll be able to see all kinds of information about navigating life as we know it, and our episodes, we will be posting further information. We'll be posting information in adding articles when we will be helpful to improve the experience of our show. I'll let you get back to your podcasts now. Thanks so much for tuning in and listening and have a wonderful listening experience.

Steve:

Welcome back, we're talking with Michaela Cowdery, about the Kelsey and the work that they do and helping to create affordable housing that's accessible for people with disabilities and without disabilities, and people of all income areas. And we I want to talk a little bit about a couple of projects that the Kelsey was working on housing type of opportunities, the Kelsey airstation, a ye are and that is in San Jose is that currently up and running?

Unknown:

That project is in the final stages of design and financing, and it should start construction in the first half of 2021. We definitely were slightly delayed on our schedule, with financing and development challenges, particularly related to COVID. But we that project is on track to start next year, and people move in within 18 to 24 months after construction.

Steve:

And that's what I read about it's 115 apartment homes, including a mix of two bedroom and studios. Can you describe this to us?

Unknown:

Yeah, so you got the vital staff. It's a fully inclusive community is located just north of downtown San Jose, really beautiful site in a long sort of corridor ready to be densified so grown larger, but you know, within a single family neighborhood too. So really nice mixed feel of a kind of quiet accessible neighborhood but walkable and 500 feet from light rail and walkable to downtown. So really kind of the best of both worlds. And the community includes obviously residential units where people with without disabilities and income ranging from those relying on SSI, so who you know, make $15,000 a year up to people making 85 to $100,000 a year. So a real mix of incomes there which is great. And it does include a pretty robust community amenity space. So a ground level community flex space that includes typically will be kind of smaller cozy seating areas and table spaces for people to have a book club or have a you know a coffee with somebody or sit at their laptop and do work and meet with a neighbor. But then it can also be turned around to help like larger community events, you know, speakers or, you know, music event or or what have you. On that ground level is also our inclusion concierge office, which is our on site specific to the kelsier model of these full time on site staff members who live and work in the community and help connect residents to each other to their services and support and to the broader community around it and then a fitness center. And then in addition to the ground level amenity spaces, and also the sensory garden and a barbecue terrace. And to your point around services. One of the things that we heard from service providers and from people with disabilities is that while they wanted their housing and services decoupled, so independent of each other where they could have choice and not have one control the other there was an interest in having some on site option to be supported and meet with staff. And so we did build in there like the we work or service provider office where they're like dropping office spaces before theirs to where you know, different service providers because not all of our residents receive the same services but they'll have one access to kind of a shared office space, or access to check out like a private meeting couchy kind of lounge room. So think of if a person lived there and their service provider comes in and then they have a place to kind of do their work and then maybe meet with that person and a family member or sit on and do a IPP plan workshop or whatever it is right on site outside the residence unit. And we again that part of our service link housing, but we aren't the ones using that it would be outside providers.

Steve:

Well it sounds like you've already passed the difficult parts which is acquiring the property and growing up plans and permits and financing and the building got to be kind of Easy By comparison, one would hope,

Unknown:

I would hope Yes, I would hope we still are in our final phases of financing. So I do think, you know, we are always holding our breath for things like the tax credit schedule, and we have a few more RSP that we hope to get funded. So I still think some of that financing work by the end of this calendar year will, will be a challenge, but, but not insurmountable. And we do feel we, you know, working with more experienced partners than I, that project is on its way to completion and success. And so it's definitely been an uphill battle. And we've had to do things like tweak our certain development elements, like we initially had market rate units on site. And we ended up with the way that we were looking at both tax credits and public subsidy and also availability of philanthropy to fill in those gaps. And saying, we need to pivot to make it 100% income restricted to be able to take full advantage of all the funding that's out there, particularly in a time like now where affordable housing is just so critically needed. Like we can't forget that because we want to just have this mixed income with market rate. And I'm really, I think one of the things I'm proud of Kelsey, and our team and our partners, is our ability to pivot in times of uncertainty to make our model work, while still also holding true to kind of our core values, the things that I mentioned earlier around affordability and accessibility and inclusivity is being flexible, where you need to be flexible, but holding on to what really matters so that you can actually get housing built.

Steve:

Yeah, you have to be kind of light on your feet, because you don't even know what the obstacles are going to be sometimes. The Kelsey Civic Center, no, how is that different? That's in San Francisco. Correct?

Unknown:

Correct. That's in San Francisco. And that project is a bit earlier phase. So that project is just we just acquired it, meaning we won the RFP for the site. Full acquisition isn't done yet. Because when you do a public process, it's not like a sale. But we have tight control with the City of San Francisco that we did through a competition with an architecture firm called wr net to develop a site right across from City Hall in the symphony in downtown San Francisco, that project is still in schematic design. So it's in its first phase of design. And we're also doing some entitlement and site reconfiguration discussions right now to that we are our campaign for that project and our fundraising for it. And that will officially kick off with the launch at the end of this year. And then one of the cool things about that project, and I think this is another piece of our model is being reflected to different opportunities and processes. So that site was one as part of a competition to develop sustainable housing with the highest level of sustainability and environmental resiliency that there is. And so we wrote that proposal together, like I said, with an architecture firm. And what's cool about the project is that it's both meeting our goals of accessibility and inclusivity, and affordability, and then layering in some really cool environmental and sustainability features that one are just good for our residents and our tenants, but also obviously good for the planet. So it'll be a really landmark project, I think in terms of both meeting disability, and affordable housing goals, while also being really advanced on the sustainability features to

Steve:

all worthwhile goals. And if you can do it, and you can make it work, the beauty is that it's going to be easier to replicate that because they don't have to reinvent the whole thing. If you've got a working model. That's, we thank you for doing that work. How can anybody if we wanted to follow your progress at the klci are in the Kelsey Civic Center? Is there something that we can track progress on that are

Unknown:

we at the Kelsey org on our homepage, you can sign up for our field notes, which we send every month and include project updates. And you know, other programs because we also run different kind of community programs and community organizing our policy works. So we send those updates monthly. And you can also need less on the project specifics, although the project specific that our website to we do have a part of our website called our Learning Center, where we are deeply committed to open sourcing everything that we do and learn so that people in other markets can take our ideas and use them as they see fit. And so we are you know, our Learning Center is still like light on the resources. We have about 10 things up there now but are growing that over this next year or by the end of this calendar year. So and then doing a web redesign. But to sign up for the Learning Center, which is free to access, you just use your email login, there's some good resources up there. And coupled with that that's listed in the Learning Center. We do do office hours. So conversations with people who are interested in learning about the Kelsey at our approach to help inform their work, we get emails kind of weekly, if not more than that from people across the country interested in our work that want to be responsive to that while also recognizing that we are a team of four capacity to talk to everybody across the country. And so our office hours are a way for people to get some one on one time in a commute in a group setting with myself and other members of our team to to learn about our work.

Steve:

It's amazing what you've accomplished so far with a team of For, we've got a couple of issues

Unknown:

tell you we work hard, but I hopefully we have a lot of fun doing.

Steve:

Well, this certainly loads of purpose in what you're doing. And it's a compensation. It's in many cases, far better than just money. Not that money is a bad thing, but and how can people support the Kelsey, I'm, I'm willing to bet there's probably a button on your website where they can make donations,

Unknown:

there is indeed, they can make a donation at the kelsy.org fully tax deductible, we take gifts in any form. And so they can definitely afford our work.

Steve:

And I would suggest anybody listening who is intrigued by this concept, check on the progress of the Kelsey Civic Center in the air station. And I imagine if they want to start a project in a different state, you would continue to be a resource as they get things going.

Unknown:

Absolutely. We like I said, we have our Learning Center. And then also there's office hours. And we do because there's so much demand. And we do think about how we can provide even more technical assistance, I will be transparent that in the end of this calendar year, we don't have capacity to take on clients in that area. But definitely reach out because that's something that we're looking at building capacity for in future years. Well, we're

Steve:

talking about things that take many, many years, sometimes they'll accomplish. I have faith that you'll be around because your your the need is great. And you're doing a fantastic job. Yeah. Thanks for joining us. I hope to hear you speak again sometime in a place nearby because you can pick an awful lot of information, exciting information into a 27 minute talk. Let me tell you,

Unknown:

yeah. Hopefully in the future, we can work on something exciting in the Midwest.

Steve:

Thank you. Thanks every day.

Unknown:

Thank you so much.

Kerry Johnson:

Hi, this is Carrie, manager and hostess of the N Locky chat cafe. Good to see you once again. Well, good to hear you once again. Well, good to talk to you. Once again, grab a cup of Joe and have a seat. We have a lot to discuss after Steve's conversation with Michaela. I'm sitting here with Steve so why don't we just jump in and start? Steve? What's your reaction to what Michaela had to share? Well, she

Steve:

shared a lot. I would say that the Kelsey is trying to lead a change in culture, not just it's not just about disability housing, it's a bigger picture than that. They're advocating affordable housing to be inclusive of disability but not exclusively for disability. Right. They're developing housing that is fully inclusive, affordable to people on SSI payments and accessible for people with and without disability. Disability is a subset of the housing shortage and affordable housing shortage. They address a broader systems change policy to make sure that the Kelsey isn't just creating a few cool housing developments that people can kind of stand in awe of at what they're doing is creating something which can be exported, they intentionally they want to be a Nexus for leading a social change in housing.

Kerry Johnson:

Right. I also liked how she didn't just say this is housing for people with disabilities. This is affordable housing. Yes, because it's while people with disabilities and living on SSI and the all the different restraints that go along with that to keep their services and their insurance and things and the restrictions that keeps them at a poverty. Okay, poverty level, but it's it makes it very difficult to live in a good place. And she's talking about it's not just people with disability that are fighting that there's a lot of other people out there.

Steve:

They have quite a few partners. I mean, sometimes an organizational list, the donors, the foundation's, they have three categories. They have donors and investors, but then they have advocacy partners also in the have inkind partners. They are very much about collaboration. mccaleb will tell you we're not doing this ourselves. We're doing this with partners. Lovely. She used a couple terms that I like to bring out and talk about inclusion native The first time I heard that was when she was addressing a group in Skokie, Illinois back in 2018. Inclusion native you know, what is that? That's basically the people that grew up in a younger generation, where they had in the classroom, people in wheelchairs and people with different disabilities, and they knew them and they were their friends. When I shared with her when I went to school Seminole wave K, okay. There was nobody in a wheelchair, there was nobody with down syndrome or CP or anything. They were all someplace else, sadly. And I was totally unaware of that. I just grew up with a bunch of white kids in the south side of Chicago. And in the suburbs of Chicago. The inclusion native looks at the world a little differently. And their cohort students with disabilities were educated right alongside the neurotypical peers. They were accepted and expected to be in the group. They value diverse communities that value individual differences, right? They have a social value proposition. What's good for the world, not just for profits. This is the Kelsey. She talked about it surprised me, she mentioned a medical model of housing and I thought I thought about Beth howlers interview because she talks about different ablest ableism and different models that they use to talk about a cool model and medical model. And in all these different models, which is ways that journalists report things, and they had to have a headline so that most things that were disability fell into the medical model, what she talks about a medical model of housing, the medical model housing summed up as we need to take care of these people, which is a nice thought. But it doesn't mean that the people with disabilities feel they want to be taken care of, they really want to be this part of society, they want to belong, they want to engage. The social model, housing is more like diversity, inclusion benefits, everyone in the community, they all benefit from it. So the housing shortage, the disability, or the affordability, housing shortage, is viewed as an opportunity, rather than just a challenge, right, it's an opportunity to bring people together and see the richness because if you get to know people with disabilities, they have so much to offer that most people don't even stop to consider. So making them part of the community. Most housing initiatives that have started are led by parents. And she does not disparage that at all. It's very, very good thing. There's a lot of great things going on. But many of them have an echo or a shadow of the institutional model, which was when everybody lived in the big central place. Like when I was going to school, when I was a kid, there were people with disabilities, there were people with Down syndrome and cerebral palsy, but you never really saw them in stores, you never saw them on the streets, you never saw them in the schools, because they were packed away some special place for this special people. And so they're talking about institutional model housing, which when the institutions were closing, became group homes, each iteration was a tweak on the institutional models we got into housing. And it still is, to a certain extent, many of them are far more inclusive, but some of them still are more geared toward taking care of people, parent led housing initiatives can reflect the institutional model. Also, there's a lack of flexibility, it's one thing developing a housing model for your child when he's or she is in their 20s. But if they're going to live, they're in their 40s and 50s. And 60s and beyond, we don't is going to transition well for them, right, you know, as their needs change, your body does change. And, you know, is is the Housing Choice that you develop for your 36 year old going to work when they're 58, when they're 62. I don't know. It may not it may not, and support the flexibility. So I really, I really appreciate having that information ahead of time as a parent, so that I know how to build this when you're a part of a supportive community is other people there to look out and help and guide and adapt to new environments. When age, age takes over. There's a traditional model, which number one emphasizes care, what do we have to do to make sure that Johnny with cerebral palsy is taken care of that he's protected. And then from that, we offer some choices which are limited by the fact that care is the most predominant one might, when we have these limited choices, then we look for access in the community to do those things. And that might be even more of a limiting factor

Unknown:

right?

Steve:

Now that inclusive model is to say, let's offer choices first, you know, what do you want to do? And then from there, we take a look at the excess of what's available in the third one. Now let's talk about the cure. But let's not make that the most important thing otherwise when it's cure is number one, you're kind of like building a fortress,

Kerry Johnson:

because then that leads to not having actually the options right choose yourself and also not having the option to fail.

Steve:

I mean, I would not have liked it if I got out of college and somebody said, Okay, well you have two choices. You can go down this road or that road, and my nature would say well, I want none of the above. I want to do it my way. Frank Sinatra made a song like that didn't I heard tell.

Kerry Johnson:

I heard

Steve:

tell. There's a couple of things you talked about the Kelsey airstation A ye er, you can see this on their website and we're going to have a lot of links posted and I really encourage you to say Look at this. The Kelsey airstation is 115 apartment homes. It'll be open sometime in 2021 maybe 2022 because COVID has knocked things back a bit. Some downtown San Jose, and it has an inclusion concierge. Yeah, but that person is able to help anybody living there, whether they're disabled or just low income, find some way to be included in the community. So they kind of know where to go, how to get things done. And there there is a support with Oasis community, West Michigan, the group that we're affiliated with, that's a community builder. So just a different name for the same kind of focus or the same kind of function for that individual. Nice. They have community spaces built into Kelsey airstation, where people could sit down and visit where they they can have community meetings, it's friendly, for people to be able to mix together and form community bonds. And the concierge also helps those through different activities to bring people together, right. They have on site staff dropping meeting offices, one of the things because a lot of this was designed with the input from people with disabilities and people desiring affordable housing. Many people have a caseworker or they do their person centered planning once a year, they have other meetings or therapy coming in, they can meet at the building, they can reserve a room, it might have a couch and be a comfortable place to meet for a small group or just a few people. But they could have that meeting right where they live. And I thought that was really a cool idea. They're still stuck on some final phases of financing, they might be through that now, because we recorded this several months ago. But they're moving forward. The other one is the Kelsey Civic Center. And this one's in San Francisco, right across from City Hall. These buildings are environmentally responsible, doing something good for the planet, and

Kerry Johnson:

exactly and sustainable. So I really liked that, you know, there, again, she's opened this up to you know, okay, we're not just going with affordable housing. Now we're looking for affordable housing, that's also that's also environmentally responsible and sustainable. How cool

Steve:

if you have an interest in this, you can get onto their web page, you can look under the Learning Center, or the Learn center and sign up. They might request you to put down your name and your email address. They're not going to hound you, they just want to know who is listening, and how to reach you. And you can sign up for various different newsletters on things that they're advancing.

Kerry Johnson:

Yeah, they're gonna have to happen to that. Yeah, there's some interesting information,

Steve:

I always didn't want to move to California. I think that some of these places might sound really cool for Liam, but we'll see they are doing a great job. And I encourage you to check out our links and Facebook mckaela mentions in the recording, about having office hours that they post where you can call up and visit with them. There's only four people running this organization. So they're always quite busy, but they reserve some time to be able to visit with people. I did not see that on their Facebook or their, their website. Now. It might be because they are so preoccupied with the Kelsie Civic Center, that they're not taking those office hours now, but I would look for those to return sometime in the future. We did post also the YouTube recording of her presentation to the Center for Independent future housing forum that happened back in 20. Oh, okay. Okay. And it's like 27 minutes long, and I couldn't believe how much information she packed in the 27 minutes. There's no way I could take notes that fast. But I encourage you to listen to that. And think about how that might work in where you live, no matter where you're hearing this. How about you roll the credits, and I will bust the table and wash all the dishes while you're giving all the things for the people that helped us.

Kerry Johnson:

All right. Well, we want to thank our engineer and program manager and Grand Poobah Alexander Johnson, for his behind this behind the scenes work, cutting splicing and editing the podcast. We also think Holly Johnson for the artistic flair, she adds to our webpage and our Facebook page, and we owe our thanks to Daniela Munoz our intern, Daniela is a in charge of the post production contact with our guests among other things we throw at her without warning. Most of all, we want to thank you, our listeners. without you. We would be binge watching Netflix every night. Working on these, these podcasts caught stop binge watching down to only three days a week. If you have any comments or suggestions, please leave them on our Facebook page. And please let us know about any topics you would like us to consider for future episodes. Thank you and stay well.