Shared living is a residential service option where a paid home provider shares their home with a person with a disability. Nelshaun and April have shared a home for the past two years.

Home provider Nelshaun says, “Shared living allows you to develop an attachment to someone and really bring them into your family.”

For some people who live in staffed residences, frequent staff changes can be difficult. Nelshaun has observed that people worry, “Is the next person going to be nice to me? Shared living gives a person the chance for individual attention” from someone who will be there every day.

April is a veteran of shared living. Before Nelshaun, April lived with a previous provider, Jackie, for 17 years. April struggled with her emotions when she first lived with Jackie. When upset, she could be aggressive, and she sought support by calling 911 and going to the hospital. With Jackie’s help, April learned how to soothe herself when she got overwhelmed.

When that relationship came to an end after the pandemic, April’s supporters worried that the transition would be really difficult after such a long time together. “I love Miss Jackie. I miss her.” Jackie and April still talk on the phone.

While it was a challenge, April was ready for a new home. Nelshaun communicated with Jackie about April’s likes and dislikes, and she kept many routines that Jackie had started. “It wasn’t a rushed thing. There were lots of meetings before she came to live with us,” says Nelshaun.

On their first day together, Nelshaun and April had a conversation about their expectations of each other and their home. It’s a busy household, including April, Nelshaun, Nelshaun’s sister, daughter and nephew–there’s always someone to talk to and something to do. “It’s good to be around people and get close to them. They’re lovable and kind,” says April of her housemates.

For Nelshaun, being a shared living provider has given her newfound freedom to be at home and to spend time with April and the rest of the family. “This gives me a greater ability to make decisions about my life,” says Nelshaun.

Nelshaun and her family have been great role models for April as she continues learning how to handle life’s ups and downs. In the past, April got angry easily and wasn’t sure how to ask for what she needed. Now April knows how to communicate. She can figure things out with Nelshaun and the kids without getting upset. “I worked on my attitude,” says April.

They are making strides as a household, too. Together, they have been on a health journey. Nelshaun has lost 15 lbs, and April has lost 30 lbs in the past two years. They love to cook and bake, so they are working together on making healthy meals for the benefit of everyone in the household. They get plenty of exercise, and everyone loves swimming at the pool. April and Nelshaun are hatching plans to go camping, crabbing, and fishing this summer.

When Nelshaun considers what makes shared living successful, she says “When you come together and both of you benefit, it really works.” But also: “Make sure that you match well. I come from a large family. April wasn’t shocked that 30 people come for a cookout. Someone else might be shocked, but April was like ‘let’s go to the party.’”

As for April, she likes being the only person with a disability in the home. “I like 1:1. I like living with Miss Nellie.” Shared living isn’t necessarily her forever plan. April’s long-term goals are to live independently and to have a romantic relationship. Nelshaun’s advice is “Don’t go until you’re ready!”

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a shared living provider, check out Aspire’s eBook “Is Becoming a Shared Living Provider Right for Me?”

Stories of Impact

Nelshaun and April: Why We Choose Shared Living