The Other Refugee Crisis.

AuthorErvin, Mike

If we adopt the policy of building insurmountable walls to keep certain people out of certain places, things can get out of hand mighty fast. We might even have to build walls to keep out a less-discussed kind of refugee: disabled people and their families who reluctantly uproot from their homes in red states and move to blue ones in search of better public support programs. It's been going on for decades and still occurs today.

The first states we would consider building walls around are Colorado and New York, which are magnets for people like Latonya Reeves.

Latonya was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. She has cerebral palsy, so she uses a motorized wheelchair. In 1985, after graduating from the University of Memphis, she found herself at a dismal dead end. She was twenty-one and faced with the prospect of spending the rest of her life in a nursing home, just to receive simple assistance with daily tasks like getting out of bed and getting dressed.

"My family couldn't take care of me," she says. "They were working. They had other things going on. They didn't know what to do. If I stayed in Tennessee, I would have wound up in a nursing home."

At the Memphis Center for Independent Living, a service and advocacy organization run by disabled people, Latonya learned of a far-away, exotic city known as Denver, Colorado. There, disabled people like her lived in their own homes with the support of assistants whose wages were paid by state Medicaid funds.

There was no program remotely resembling that in Tennessee. "I had to do something," Latonya says. So she moved to Denver. There she found the Atlantis Community, an organization that specializes in getting or keeping disabled people out of nursing homes by helping set them up with essentials like affordable, accessible housing and in-home assistance.

When Latonya arrived in Denver, she lived in the home of a man Atlantis helped liberate from a nursing home until she could get a place of her own. "It was scary but I got used to it quickly," she recalls. "I was upset about leaving my family, but I knew it was best for me."

Thirty-three years later, she's settled comfortably in an apartment with a crew of people who help her out four times a day. She says it all works out just fine. And she's stayed out of a nursing home.

In 2001, when Nick Dupree was nineteen years old and living in Mobile, Alabama, he received Medicaid-funded assistance that helped him live in his family home and even...

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