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Southwest Center for Independence

Give the gift of independence! One in five Americans becomes disabled or experiences a chronic condition that interferes with our ability to live the lives we want. Make a real impact on the lives of people with disabilities who want to be more independent and more included in their communities.

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Independent Living

Class

Human Services 

Beneficiaries

Disabled

Description

The Independent Living program is our principal program. As a certified Center for Independent Living we have a mandate from the Federal government to provide the following services, and to provide additional services to meet the needs of local people with disabilities.

• Information, Referrals, and Options Counseling to help people find and decide on resources
• Individual and Systems Advocacy to eliminate barriers facing people with disabilities
• Peer Support from other people with disabilities who have been there
• Independent Living Skills Training to allow people to manage their own lives, speak up for themselves, and access the programs and services they want
• Transition Services for those wanting to leave a restrictive environment (like high school, the parents' home, or nursing homes) for a less restrictive one, and to help people stay out of institutions

We provide these services through a framework of consumer control (people develop their own goals, and people with disabilities run the company), cross disability services (serving people of any age, with any disability), a focus on self-help and peer support, and the goal of equal access to society.

Our focus is to assist people with becoming more independent and more included in their community. If you want a government check and to live in poverty the rest of your life, you've come to the wrong place!

most people come to in need of addressing their basic needs, including access to housing, income, transportation, and healthcare. In addition, many people seek social connection, and want to participate in and contribute to their community. We don't have a menu of services, but start by sitting down together and talking about what's important to each person, and charting out person-centered goals and action plans.

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Evidence of Program's Success

Over the last year, we helped over 650 people to pursue their independent living goals, supporting their ability to work, live and play as valued members of their community.

• We transitioned to working off site to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In addition, we hosted a vaccine- equity clinic and coordinated mobile vaccine delivery in collaboration with San Juan Basin Public Health.
• We instituted a series of Housing 101 classes to teach people to find their own housing.
• We continued to facilitate peer support groups are offered for individuals with brain injury, physical disabilities, vision loss, stroke, PTSD, MS and disabled Veterans. Most support groups are staffed by CIL staff, however the tenor and course of each group is determined by individual participant.
• We worked with Pine River Shares to develop the collective leadership initiative, Thrive in Place, engaging older adults in the Pine River Valley to mobilize around creating conditions for aging in place. The project has continued to increase its reach among older adults across the Pine River Valley.
• We facilitated leadership groups, including accessible gardening at Lumien Apartments.
• SWCI hosts a variety of activities that create opportunities for people to meet each other and make friends. Several consumers have reported participate in activities outside the center as a result of friendships they have made at the CIL. People often comment that these activities help them develop relationships and support systems. These activities have included potlucks, picnics, game day, exercise, yoga, and regular recreational activities hosted by our Brain Injury support group.

Southwest Rides

Class

Public, Society Benefit 

Beneficiaries

Aging, Elderly, Senior Citizens
Disabled
Veterans

Description

Southwest Rides is our transportation program, providing free accessible driver-assisted transportation for people with disabilities, the aging, and Veterans to medical appointments and the food bank.

Southwest Rides now has close to 250 riders, and provided approximately 300 rides per month to help people access healthcare and other social determinant of health. The program has continued to adapt to addressing the communities challenges during COVID-19, through delivering food to people with mobility barriers to accessing community resources. The program adopted stringent prevention protocols for keeping our riders and drivers safe.

Photos

Evidence of Program's Success

We provided approximatly 200 trips per month, involving door-to-door, pick up and drop off services (each way is counted as one trip), in which approximately 50% of trips will be for healthcare appointments, 25% for food, and 25% for other essential goods and social support networks.

Over 70% of our active riders are over the age of 65. Over half of our riders live below the poverty level.

We worked with transit partners to coordinate an annual transportation forum in La Plata County, focused on increasing the communties awareness of transportation options.
Almost 100% of rides serve people outside of Durango City limits.



Low Vision

Class

Human Services 

Beneficiaries

Aging, Elderly, Senior Citizens
Blind & Vision Impaired

Description

The Low Vision program provides specialized independent living services for people aged 55 and older who are experiencing age-related vision loss. Services include peer support groups, mobility and home assessments, access to assistive technology, and education about eye disease and technology.

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Evidence of Program's Success

Our low vision consumers report that we are able to help them maintain their independence and their level of activity in the community, and they are less likely to have to live in nursing homes. Over the last year we served approximatly 100 people experiencing blindness or visual impairments, with 30 of whom we secured assistive technology for.

We coordianted several low-vision and blindness community forums at the Durango Public Library to increase the communities awareness of local resource.

Nursing Home Transition

Class

Human Services 

Beneficiaries

Disabled

Description

The Nursing Home Transition program works to advance Federal Olmstead and Money Follows the Person laws by allowing nursing home residents the choice of returning to the community. We facilitate assessments and risk mitigation, putting services in place that will allow the person to live a life of their own choosing in their own home.

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Evidence of Program's Success

When people receive their Medicaid supports and services in the community, we save the state hundreds of thousands of dollars.

When people receive their Medicaid supports and services in the community, we save the state hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The program continues to successfully transition a large number of individuals out of Skilled Nursing Facilities during Covid-19. These are individuals with very high care needs, so coordination and consumer participation are vital. In a small rural area with limited resources and care provider options this is a big success and is improving the lives of those individuals immensely.

This involves a great deal of staff time and focus on the individuals, their choices, dreams and sense of belonging to a community that cares, even if we do not have all of the resources to help them transition at this time.

Housing

Class

Housing 

Beneficiaries

Disabled

Description

The Housing program includes administration of different kinds of housing vouchers specifically for people with disabilities. People pay 30% of their income on their rent, and the state government makes up the difference. Our Housing Voucher Coordinator maintains various subsidized housing vouchers provided through state and federal funding.

Affordable, accessible housing is an essential part of Independent living and can be hard to locate in our region. SWCI has updated local housing availability resources as well as a list of local organizations that provide housing assistance. The program also provides skills training and assistance in finding a place to live. The people without Vouchers who come to us looking for housing are overwhelmingly looking to find something accessible, affordable, and on a bus line.

The additional services we provide to people, outside of administering the vouchers, includes:
• Extensive briefings on how to manage a Housing Voucher
• Classes on how to locate housing
• Individual assistance locating accessible appropriate housing
• Assistance working with the landlord on disability related accommodations
• Assistance working with landlords on schedules for deposits, including utilities, and other accommodations necessary for people living in extreme poverty
• Liaising with the landlord when disability-related difficulties occur
• The entire gamut of independent living services that our organization provides that assist people with being more independent and included community members - employment, independent living skills training, peer support, assisting with self-advocacy, civic engagement, transportation, information & referral, options counseling, disability education, etc.

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Evidence of Program's Success

Over 154 people with disabilities in our service area are able to maintain accessible affordable appropriate housing because of our voucher program. Many others are able to find adequate housing in a tight expensive rental market.

Civic Engagement & Systems Advocacy

Class

Human Services 

Beneficiaries

Aging, Elderly, Senior Citizens
Disabled

Description

As a cross-disability agency, we work to propel a unified disability movement at the grassroots level across Southwest Colorado. This involves working with community stakeholders to advocate for and build inclusive, equitable environments, where people with disabilities are able to access goods and services regardless of their disability. Our non-partisan grassroots organizing efforts involve assuring that people with disabilities can be informed and involved in the political process.

With the COVID pandemic ,we have focused our systems advocacy efforts on linking people to mutual aid networks, and increasing collective leadership to address community issues.

There is still a lot of work to be done in rural Southwest Colorado to create equitable coh nditions for people to thrive where they live work and play. We strive to impact physical barriers in the built environment through fostering cross-sector partnerships that can take a regional, systems approach to addressing these issues.

Photos

Evidence of Program's Success

Through working across sectors of the community, we have made the following environmental impacts:
- A local owner of several gas stations has made all of his restrooms accessible, thanks to the work of our staff.
-We are working with the Colorado Department of Transportation and local officials through the Multimodal Advisory Council to Durango to build more accessible public transit stops and sidewalks.
-We have worked with local buisness' on Main Street to become more accessible.
-Through mutual aid network, we developed a community led garden project at Lumien Apartments.
- We worked with the City of Durango and CDOT and got several more curb cuts in North Main Ave. The City is helping at other spots.
- CIL staff participate in planning sessions with city planners, the local transportation coordinating council, and the multi-modal advisory board.
- We worked with La Plata County on how they needed to let people know about the status of the elevator at the Court House/Human Services instead of just putting up an OUT OF ORDER sign.
- We helped develop an Accessible Community Team committee which aims to create a more accessible community. The committee is composed of people with disabilities, service providers, and City of Durango tourism & business development staff, and it administers an annual City grant to help businesses become more accessible.
- We continue to work with the Colorado Cross Disability Coalition on issues that are statewide in nature. Our input is vital as it provides not only a rural perspective but a Native American perspective.
- We hosted a Disability Issues Forum in Durango with representatives from local government responding to questions from a packed house.
- We provided both remote and on-site testimony regarding statewide issues relevant to the disability community; including employment of people with disabilities, Aid to the Needy and Disabled process, and the process Medicaid uses to get people out of nursing homes.

Youth

Class

Human Services 

Beneficiaries

Adolescents/Youth (13-19 years)
Disabled
Young Adults (20-25 years)

Description

SWCI's Youth Program involves youth ages 14 - 26 through civic engagement, assistance with emancipation and transition to a less restricted life as an adult, continuing education, and learning about living and working well with a disability.

Over the past year we worked with community partners to launch the Young People As Leaders Project. This youth leadership initiative aims to create pipeline for youth across Southwest Colorado to take action in breaking down barriers to equity and inclusion. We aim to create a collective of stakeholders committed to supporting young people to lead and learn through project-based solutions in their community. Ultimately, the project aims to build public support for inclusive spaces that promote the wellbeing and success of youth.

Photos

Evidence of Program's Success

We are engaging the next generation of leadership in the disability rights movement. Over the past year we have focused on developing the collective leadership of youth with disabilities across various settings.

Through the Young People as Leaders initiative, we are developed collaborations with youth serving organizations across the region to create opportunities for young people to lead as change agents in their community, through addressing barriers to independence and inclusion. This includes working closely with school and youth development partnerships to link young people to leadership opportunities.

Throughout the pandemic, we conducted monthly workshops for a group of young people to learn advocacy skills and connect with leadership opportunities in their community.

Employment

Class

Human Services 

Beneficiaries

Disabled
Unemployed, Underemployed

Description

Whether you are looking for your first job or getting a new one, SWCI can help. Our Employment Specialists work closely with transition age youth and adults to assess your interests and skills, support you to find services through the local Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) and to find jobs in your community.

The employment program consists of several individualized ways to assist people with finding and maintaining employment.

1) DVR employment services: SWCI is an approved vendor of DVR services. We work closely with the job seeker to make sure they find a job that meets their goals. We offer assistance with resume writing, career exploration, job search and development, interviewing skills, requesting accommodations, advocacy, and job coaching support to people with disabilities.
2) DVR Benefits Counseling: Benefits counseling is a DVR service where we identify the benefits someone is currently receiving, and explain how each of those benefits may be affected by a change in earned income. This provides the job-seeker with information to make informed financial decisions
3) Ticket to Work We are an authorized Social Security Ticket to Work Service Provider. Ticket to Work provides long-term employment support for people age 18-64 who are receiving Social Security cash benefits and wish work at a level where they will no longer receive these benefits. We have a certified benefits counselor who provides information about how and when their benefits will change as their earnings increase. Examples of employment supports include: resume writing, career exploration, job search and interview assistance, benefits counseling, requesting workplace accommodations, career advancement, and guidance with difficult work settings.
4) Non-DVR employment and benefits support: Employment support and benefits counseling are available to people not enrolled with DVR services or Ticket to Work. We offer assistance with resume writing, career exploration, job search and development, benefits counseling, interviewing skills, and job coaching support to people with disabilities.

Photos

Evidence of Program's Success

We provided job development support to fourteen (14) people, of whom seven (7) achieved their employment goals, and four (4) are in progress.

We provided benefits counseling to eight (8) people across three Colorado Counties.

We provided the workshop- "Working Well with a Disability", as part of our Public Library training series.

Our Employment Network was approved in May 2020. We enrolled one (1) beneficiary in June who is stably employed

Key aspects of this profile information have been reviewed by Community First Foundation staff. Each organization is exclusively responsible for the content that appears on the profile page. Community First Foundation offers general guidance as to the purpose of each area but does not require or encourage charities to include anything in particular in each section.