Imagine if you faced the following assaults and indignations:
A sizable brick is heaved through a window, shattering glass in your office, traumatizing your co-workers and clients.
Hurtful signs colored with bright red arrows pop up on your street and are pointed at your home. The explicit message? You are not welcome here.
A defamatory email crusade executed by a minority of outspoken neighbors spreads malicious and unfounded rumors about the home’s occupants. These online insults are then vocalized at a publicly attended neighborhood association meeting.
The young adults residing in this home are bullied, teased and mocked by neighbors, singled out for their differences and disabilities.
These are hateful, violent, and discriminatory acts. They are appalling and should shock the conscious. Yet they persist and are even sanctioned by board members in the local community who exert influence.
Who are these victims?
These targets are my patients at New Directions for Young Adults. They reside in a residential living environment in Deerfield Beach and are oftentimes put in my care by desperate parents with nowhere else to turn.
They are young adults challenged by disabilities, some who suffer from disorders such as autism, bipolar disorder and depression. And in a minority of instances, their mental illnesses are comorbid with substance use, often in an attempt to self medicate severe anxiety and other primary conditions.
For detractors, this facility is called a sober home or halfway house. Their protestations, while unmerited, are illegal and violate federal and state fair housing laws. It is also a malicious form of bullying.
It contravenes a decision taken by the city of Deerfield Beach granting New Directions a reasonable accommodation to allow young adults with disabilities the right to reside in this residence within The Townehomes of Deer Creek community.
At its core, the New Directions residence is a safe haven for young adults, where people with different disabilities coexist, integrate and contribute to society by volunteering at local food banks, the humane society and at a community garden.
Patients also can access a variety of professional services within the surrounding community such as medical, dental and chiropractic care.
Instruction from New Directions staff on topics such as academics, vocational, basic budgeting and social skills acquisition, in additional to clinical treatments, do not ever occur at the residence, only at our off-site professional offices.
The home is a designated safe environment, but residents must follow heightened levels of rules and regulations — a requirement to remain living at the residence and to adhere to a good neighborly code of conduct.
To live in a New Directions residence, patients must abide by an exhaustive list of 20 requirements to include:
•No consumption, storage or sale of alcohol on the premises
•No illegal drugs
•No smoking in the house
•No guests past 9 p.m. without prior permission
As an added due diligence, a paid assistant lives at the premises and is responsible for providing daily checks and supervision at the home.
From providing extra supervision of our patients to observing medications, life management support services, stringent house rules and 24-hour emergency support, the Deer Creek facility adheres to the highest of standards. This in an effort to best support the patients who reside at this residence and to ensure they are good neighbors, while providing additional safety and security to the community as a whole.
If acted upon in a responsible manner, legislative efforts undertaken by lawmakers in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., will be a welcome development for responsible professionals treating patients diagnosed with disabilities.
Community housing plays critically important and supportive role for people with disabilities. For patients suffering because of debilitating diseases and their families who are ill-equipped to care for their loved ones, this residence is the last best hope available. It is a model to emulate, not castigate.
We must summon the better angels of our nature to stamp out discrimination, especially against the disabled.
The law, and our morality, should never allow it.
Andrew Rubin is a licensed clinical psychologist and the founder of New Directions for Young Adults Inc.
Read this Op-Ed in the Sun Sentinel: https://www.sun-sentinel.com/opinion/commentary/fl-ascol-oped0321-20160318-story.html