What Families Say

“Eileen and I are very thankful and blessed for the wonderful staff at St. Paul Street. My daughter, Kate, was recently in Beth Israel Hospital with pneumonia. On a Saturday, the weekend staff person, Cristel, noticed that Kate was having difficulty. Ivy, the house manager, called me from her home to tell me that an ambulance was taking Kate to the hospital. Cristel went in the ambulance with Kate and stayed with her in the hospital until I arrived about 2:30 in the morning. While Kate was in the hospital and recuperating with us, Kate’s housemates took care of her room and did her laundry. We couldn’t be happier about Kate’s life at St. Paul Street. The entire staff and residents are truly wonderful.”

“My daughter is having a life that’s far richer than I ever imagined… It’s impossible to put into words the feeling of having our youngster in a tremendously supportive environment.”

“The staff help the residents to develop their skills and function as a cohesive household. While the residents all have different interests and abilities, they have all ‘got a life’… we feel a sense of validation and relief. We have given our daughter roots and wings.”

“Having M. move out on his own and into an independent living program has helped him grow into the person he is. Our family learned to accept M. for who he is and be proud of it.”

“If I had been aware that supported housing options existed when A. was 12 or 13, I would have done different things with my finances. And I would have worked harder and started earlier encouraging her to be self reliant.”

From a long-time Specialized Housing parent whose daughter lived in the Arlington household:

“For many years our focus as parents of a daughter with disabilities was on school and family issues. As she grew older we realized that sooner or later we were going to have to face ‘the future’ whatever that held. We thought that maybe she would outgrow some of her challenges. She might live in her own apartment somewhere, have friends, and come home for help when she needed it. The day came when we had to accept that she will need some level of support throughout her life. Living alone was not an option and accessing other support services or group living arrangements seemed to elude us. We engaged her in the conversations and decisions about these options. She herself realized that she wanted to be with friends, to have access to a community, to live away from her parents, but she was nervous about being entirely on her own.

“By sheer grace we happened upon Specialized Housing, Inc. Their model combines home ownership with staff supports. It builds on the idea that communities are support networks for all citizens, providing access and encouragement for all to participate in community life. We joined a group of parents who were working to establish a new home in Arlington, Massachusetts where our daughter lived happily from 1997 to 2010.

“She works at the supermarket, plays keyboard in a small group with her housemates, contributes to the governance and operation of the house by sharing the work of cooking, cleanup, trash removal, shopping and managing the friendship network required of a shared living environment. She is a regular consumer at the local library, the computer café, and local restaurants. She patronizes the music store and a variety of specialty shops.

“She is quite independent, but she still needs supports. She has challenges with many of the responsibilities expected of adults, such as keeping a job, scheduling regular medical appointments, managing her money, keeping her belongings and her personal space in order. She does not drive, and is dependent on public transportation to access employment and services.”

What Residents Say

“It was a bold new concept years ago. This kind of lifestyle for a person on the autism spectrum like myself was unheard of, so I’d like to thank very much David and Margot Wizansky for thinking up this concept and for giving us a roof over our heads and more importantly, a sense of pride and dignity for what we are. We don’t have to be ashamed any more for being developmentally disabled. We can have a life and have a job and everything… And so I thank you very much for creating Specialized Housing and all the staff people for helping us and putting up with our shenanigans. And I’d like to thank my mother for bringing me into this program. And I’d like to say congratulations to everyone here for making it to 25 years…”


From a resident to a house manager who was promoted after 14 years: “I thank you for helping me and giving me advice and the courage to go through the years with me and I can definitely say you have helped me more than anyone in my 22 years at this house. I thank you for understanding me and acknowledging my fears and ambitions and for making me strong and helping me get to where I am today.”

“Before I didn’t have many friends. Now, I have friends and I’m doing so many things I can’t keep track of all of them!”

“They should start houses like this all across the country. God forbid your parents die and you don’t have a place of your own with your kind of people.”

“My six housemates and I are renting a farmhouse on Cape Cod for a week in August. This is the second year in a row we’ve done this. We’ve been saving all year for it.”

“The conference I attended in Cambridge, England was entitled ‘Turning the Red Lights Green’ which touched on various issues around people with disabilities and how they live their lives… I spoke about all my social activities over the years… my will and confidence to try new things and the pleasure I feel knowing I CAN do this.”

“The thing I enjoy most is hanging out with all my friends at the movies, the mall and the sense of closeness and support we give each other. There is always someone to talk to through good times and bad and it can even get a little rowdy.”

“Before I moved into the house, I was scared and excited at the same time. I was scared because I was leaving my mom’s house for the first time. I was excited because I was leaving my mom’s house for the first time.”

“I have lived in other programs before the house. But those programs did not have as much freedom as our house does. The freedom to go to the movies or out to lunch or maybe to a rock concert.”

“This condo made it possible for me to be independent but not alone.”

“My ten months have been for me the happiest ever. And my move out date is NEVER, NEVER, NEVER. I just love being here!”

“I feel more useful when I’m helpful, which is why I have a thankful heart today…”

Comments From Staff

“It is with some sadness that I leave my position as House Manager to work full time in the main office of Specialized Housing, Inc. The past sixteen years I have borne witness to the tremendous support, care, and concern the folks have for each other, in ways big and small, and am a better person for it. The relationships I have with the folks are extraordinarily important to me, and I am fortunate that while those relationships will necessarily change, they will remain part of my professional life as I continue in my new role.”

“As a staff member, I certainly felt I received much more than I gave.”

“…great people living there – constantly warm, very interesting.”

“Congratulations on running such a successful program; successful because it has consistently attracted such capable and caring employees, and because of the attitude of respect that allows people the opportunity to live their own lives in a structured, comfortable environment.”

“I think my own life is richer and fuller due to this experience.”

“The more I got to know the people there, the more similarities I found between them and myself, between them and other people. I saw their struggles to find a place for themselves, to understand themselves and their surroundings, and to confront the myriad problems, large and small, that every day presents.”

“I was constantly impressed by their mutual acceptance and support.”

“Fourteen years ago when I started as a weekend staff person, I didn’t imagine that I would be standing here giving a speech as the House Manager. Over the years watching the residents grow is what has made me love my job. They are the reason that I love coming to work every day. They teach me things just as often as I teach them things.”

“I also want to thank the parents and siblings of the residents for being so supportive to me. It makes my job easier…”

“…living amongst them has enriched my life. I will miss seeing them each morning as I leave for work, or each evening when I come home from work… We truly embraced each other as if we were a family. Some days were more difficult than others, but overall, it was an incredibly rewarding experience that I won’t be able to forget.”

“It is a very special group of people who live and work there, and I am fortunate to have known them.”