In the pursuit of a more equitable and just society, the role of advocacy cannot be overstated. Recently, two of our dedicated advocacy team members took a significant step towards this goal by participating in the Senate Select Committee on Housing. Their compelling testimonies not only shed light on crucial issues but also served as a powerful testament to the importance of advocacy in driving positive change. Our two passionate advocacy team members, Katie Hunt Thomas and Sally Fish, seized the opportunity to share their insights and experiences. Their testimonies were not just personal narratives but powerful accounts that highlighted the pressing challenges faced by individuals and families in the realm of housing.

Katie Thomas highlights the urgent need to address housing challenges for people with disabilities in Ohio. She emphasizes the historical shift from institutional to community-based living mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. Despite progress, her testimony points out that housing options have not kept pace with the rising prevalence of disability in Ohio, placing individuals at risk of housing instability. Katie proposes three key recommendations: collaborative planning for diverse home- and community-based housing models, setting universal design standards for accessibility, and increased funding for existing programs supporting individuals with disabilities. Urging swift action, her testimony emphasizes the importance of prioritizing affordable, accessible housing to ensure the well-being and independence of individuals with disabilities. Katie concludes by expressing gratitude for the opportunity to testify.

Sally Fish testifies before Chairwoman Reynolds and the committee, addressing the significant challenges faced by Ohioans with disabilities in securing affordable, accessible, community-based housing. Sally advocates for increased construction of accessible single-family homes, expanded accessibility requirements in multifamily complexes, and the expansion of programs like Section 811 to combat the state’s housing crisis. The demographic data presented underscores the pressing need, with a high percentage of Ohio’s population aged 65 and older and a significant portion facing disabilities. Despite existing accessibility requirements, the shortage of suitable housing is evident, leading to a double-edged challenge for individuals with disabilities—meeting accessibility needs and navigating financial constraints. Sally emphasizes the urgency for comprehensive solutions, collaborative efforts, and inclusive policies to address the multifaceted housing crisis in Ohio and prevent the risks of homelessness and institutionalization.

The testimonies of Katie and Sally resonate as a powerful call to arms, emphasizing the critical need for a collaborative, inclusive, and urgent approach to tackle Ohio’s multifaceted housing crisis. The role of advocacy workers in driving positive change is unmistakable, and their dedication paves the way for a more equitable and just housing system for all Ohioans.