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Local advocates call on state leaders to expand housing options for people with disabilities

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Racquel Stephen
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WXXI News
Tyler Nersinger, who was diagnosed with autism at age 5, voices longing for independent living options.

Tyler Nersinger lives with his mother and sister in their Rochester home, but the 22-year-old often longs for his own space.

“I've been trying to move forward into living on my own, but I'm kind of stuck in some form of a stupor,” he said.

Nersinger said his disability is delaying his attempt to live independently.

He was 5 when he was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Today, he dreams of living in a duplex house within a neighborhood of individuals who share similar experiences and challenges.

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Racquel Stephen
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NYS Assemblywoman Sarah Clark speaks at local press conference at Golisano Autism Center.

“I don't think that my diagnosis should limit my choices on where I get to live,” Nersinger said, adding that his ideal community would be free of “any kind of boundaries negating that interaction and unity.”

State lawmakers and local advocacy groups say they’re trying to bring that vision to fruition.

On Thursday, AutismUp, the Golisano Autism Center and Homesteads for Hope held a news conference in support of two pieces of state legislation that would expand housing programs for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

State Assemblywoman Sarah Clark, who represents the 136th District, said these changes are a necessity.

“We're at this crisis moment where we know there's just not enough housing options,” she said. “When we have people who have visions like Homesteads for Hope, we want to be able to make that happen.”

Homesteads for Hope has developed a 55-acre prototype of what a community could look like. Advocates said it’s similar to a college campus where people share similar goals, and all accommodations are built right in.

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Racquel Stephen
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Homesteads for Hope
Homesteads for Hope display 55-acre independent housing community prototype for people with developmental disabilities.

Clark said the bills came out of the People with Disabilities Committee this week, and moved into codes. She said the next step is getting it on the Assembly floor for a vote.

“I am hoping that this legislation helps open the door for intentional communities where people like me can work, socialize and live,” Nersinger said with a smile.

Racquel Stephen is a health and environment reporter. She holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of Rochester and a master's degree in broadcasting and digital journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.