Living Arrangements


One of the potentially biggest steps of transitioning to adulthood is the change in where the young adult lives. The planning behind this decision should happen throughout the teenage years to give the young adult the skills and preparation necessary to make this change. Families and young adults should remember that the decision will be based on many different and changing factors.
Some young adults will stay at home, some will move into college housing, some will live with friends or relatives; and some may move into assisted living or group home facilities. Some young adults will move to an apartment or house on their own without roommates. The factors that may influence the decision may include:
  • physical and cognitive abilities;
  • independent living skills;
  • family finances and financial aid;
  • family and caregiver abilities;
  • and Young adult and family comfort with different living arrangements.
Young adults who have difficulties with managing money, managing time, cooking, cleaning, and arranging transportation should consider living at home with relatives until they develop these skills, regardless of their ability or disability. Families with young adults that have intellectual disabilities and behavioral problems that place other family members at risk from harm may want to consider assisted living or group home facilities. Young adults who are going to attend college or work may want to consider shared living arrangements such as college dorms or shared apartments as starting points. For any young adult a support system should be identified to help in times of emergencies, or when the young adult just needs some help or company.
Regardless of the living arrangement, families and young adults are encouraged to consider the variety of daytime activities that are available. Transportation, income, insurance, and other factors should be considered when choosing the living arrangement, and daytime activities. For example, living at home may be cheaper than living in a college dorm but may have additional costs for transportation expenses and effort. Some daytime activities include:
  • full-time or part-time employment;
  • college, vocational schools, or other training programs;
  • day programs offered by local non-profit organizations;
  • volunteer programs offered by for-profit or non-profit organizations;
  • Recreational activities offered by community organizations.

Living with Parents/Family

Most young adults will live with their parents, guardians, family, or relatives for some period of time after their 18th birthday or when they complete high school. Young adults are usually still learning the skills they need to live independently or are unable to afford their own apartment or house. Young adults who attend college may continue to live with their parents and commute to college. Young adults can live with parents during breaks, or return to living with parents after college and before starting full-time employment.
On the other end of the continuum, young adults with intellectual disabilities or some physical impairment may continue to live with their parents where they have access to caregivers that are familiar with their needs. Finding accessible housing or financing private caregivers is often a challenge for young adults.
In evaluating the decision to live with parents or relatives, the family should evaluate:
  • the young adult's disability and independence skills;
  • the family members' skills and ability to care for the young adult;
  • the young adult's ability to find employment;
  • the young adult's ability to secure transportation for employment, health care, recreation, and other activities;
  • the young adult's ability to pay for housing and other expenses;
  • the total costs of housing, utilities, food, transportation, recreation, and other expenses for the various living options;
  • and the young adult’s eligibility for services that provide care and support and how the different living situations may support or jeopardize eligibility.

Residential Services

Individuals with special needs may be eligible for services in their homes based on Medicaid programs or Waivers. The waivers are designed to allow the individual the ability to live at home, in a supportive environment, at a lower cost than living in an assisted living facility. The services available depend on the specific disability and other factors. Individuals with special needs may begin accessing residential services when they still live with their parents. Young adults with access to residential services may be able to live independently or with others in an apartment or house.
Before making a decision about living arrangements, families and young adults should find out what services may or may not be available for the living arrangements that they are considering. While a young adult may want to be more independent and live far away from his or her parents, the financial situation and limits on services may be of greater importance. Families should also explore creative solutions such as finding out if a separate space on the family’s property, such as a garage apartment, would allow the young adult greater independence without jeopardizing care or services. When considering a garage apartment, mother-in-law, or other types of apartments on the family property, the family should contact the city to determine if local building codes will allow those types of dwellings.

Assisted Living

Young adults that need care and support that families are unable to provide may consider assisted living facilities. For example, young adults that require twenty-four-hour care or that have behaviors that place family members at risk may benefit from an assisted living environment. These facilities can provide skilled care and structured activities for young adult residents. The availability of facilities may be limited in rural areas and visiting hours for families may vary. Families should visit the facility and talk with the administration about the specific needs of the young adult and the services that the facility offers. Families should also discuss this option with their health insurance provider since assisted living facilities are usually one of the more expensive options.
Assisted living supports cover a wide range, from dependent-based facilities to a more independent environment where individuals are encouraged to develop necessary skills to become homeowners. Some things to consider are:
  • Level of care
  • Types of disabilities served at the facility
  • Private or government financing
  • Compliance with regulatory agencies
  • Social, educational, and recreation activities offered
  • Type, level, and licensing of professional staff
  • Ability of the individuals to leave the facility for social or employment opportunities
  • Location in the community or distance from family and relatives
  • The general feel of the facility (like a hospital or a home)
State disability agencies can provide information about options in your state and community. For more information: see see all Independent Living services providers (1) in our database in our database.

Group Homes

Young adults may choose to live in a group home with other adults with disabilities in a supervised and supported environment. Group homes, usually a house in a residential neighborhood, offer a family-type environment. Usually staff will provide training in independence skills and the residents share in the work of the household, like a family working together. The residents may be employed outside of the home or participate in other community activities during the daytime. A group home may be a way for young adults to transition from living at home to a more independent living environment in the future or may be a more permanent living situation.
Families, including the young adult, should fully explore any potential group home for rules and group dynamics that fit well with the young adult with disabilities. Just like every family has its own rules and every house has its differences, families should ask about:
  • household chores
  • options for employment
  • transportation options
  • options for personal care/support
  • curfews
  • accessible rooms
  • emergency plans
  • staffing levels
  • daily routines
The location and support from their local neighborhood and city should be considered also. Families may want to consider if they want their young adult to live in a home with individuals with similar disabilities, for the sake of household routines, or in a home with different disabilities, for exposure to diverse individuals. Families should also consider costs and how long they estimate that the young adult will reside in the home.

Section 8 Housing

Today, people with disabilities have many options for owning their own home, but it may take time, persistence, and patience to realize this goal. Many of the available resources have long waiting lists for housing services.
Young adults with disabilities may be eligible for the Housing Choice Voucher Program, one program under Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937. The vouchers can be used for rental or applied toward a home purchase. The young adult will need to find a place to live and the voucher would be applied toward the rent, provided directly to the landlord with the remainder of the rent and deposits paid by the young adult. Income and other rules may apply and there are usually waiting lists for the program. Young adults should contact their local Housing Authority for details and to apply. For individuals or families in the program, they must keep the apartment or home in good condition and notify the Housing Authority of any changes in the family's situation, such as the number of people living in the apartment and income.
Other resources to facilitate home ownership include: community development agencies; resources for making a home accessible; financial assistance, and savings programs. For more information see all we currently have no State Institutions for Individuals with Disabilities service providers listed, please search our Services database for related services and see all Housing, Other services providers (2) in our database.


Information & Support

For Parents and Patients

National Council on Independent Living (NCIL)
Provides information and advocacy for independent living with links to locate state councils and local centers.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Accessibility and Universal Design
US Department of Education, Office of Accessibility and Universal Design.

Youth/Young Adult Transition Needs Assessment (Word Document 91 KB)
A worksheet to help the youth or young adult determine strengths and needs to help prepare for transition to adulthood; from the Utah Family Voices Health Information & Support Center, adapted from Florida.

Services Nationwide

Select services for a specific state: ID, MT, NM, NV, RI, UT

Adult Day Programs

We currently have no nationwide Adult Day Programs service providers listed; search our Services database for related services or, if relevant for you, a state link above.

Adult Residential Care Homes

We currently have no nationwide Adult Residential Care Homes service providers listed; search our Services database for related services or, if relevant for you, a state link above.

Career Counseling

See all Career Counseling services providers (1) in our database.

Housing, Other

See all Housing, Other services providers (2) in our database.

Independent Living

See all Independent Living services providers (1) in our database.

State Institutions for Individuals with Disabilities

We currently have no nationwide State Institutions for Individuals with Disabilities service providers listed; search our Services database for related services or, if relevant for you, a state link above.

For other services related to this condition, browse our Services categories or search our database.

Authors & Reviewers

Initial publication: November 2012; last update/revision: February 2013
Current Authors and Reviewers:
Author: Alfred N. Romeo, RN, PhD