Living Arrangements


One of the biggest steps of transitioning to adulthood can be the change in where the young adult lives. Planning for this should happen throughout the teenage years to give the young adult the skills to be ready to make this choice. Young adults should know that where they live will be based on many things.
Some young adults will stay at home, some will move into college housing, some will live with friends or family members, and some may move into assisted living or a group home. Some young adults will move to an apartment or house on their own without roommates. Things to think about when making this decision are:
  • Physical and cognitive abilities
  • Independent living skills
  • Finances and financial aid
  • Family and caregiver support
  • Comfort with different living arrangements
Young adults who have problems with managing money, time, cooking, cleaning, and transportation should think about living at home with family members until they build these skills, no matter what their ability or disability. Families with young adults that have behavioral problems that put themselves or family members at risk for harm may want to look at assisted living or group homes. Young adults who are going to college or work may want to look at shared living arrangements such as college dorms or shared apartments as starting points. Any young adult should have a support system in place to help in case of emergencies or when they need help.
Regardless of where they are living, young adults and their families should consider the daytime activities for them near home (see Employment/Daytime Activities). Transportation, income and insurance, should be considered when choosing where to live, and daytime activities. For example, living at home may be cheaper than living in a college dorm but may have more costs for transportation and may take more effort to get to school. Some daytime activities include:
  • Full-time or part-time employment
  • College, vocational schools, or other training programs
  • Day programs
  • Volunteer programs
  • Recreational activities

Living with Parents/Family

Most young adults will live with their parents, guardians, family, or family members for some period of time after their 18th birthday or after high school. Young adults are often still learning the skills they need to live on their own or are not able to pay for their own apartment or house. Young adults who go to college may keep living 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 work.
On the other end of the continuum, young adults with intellectual disabilities or some physical disabilities may need to keep living with their parents where they have caregivers that know their needs. Finding accessible housing or financing private caregivers is not always easy for young adults.
When deciding to live with parents or family members, these things should be kept in mind:
  • The young adult's disability and independence skills
  • The family members' skills and ability to care for the young adult
  • If the young adult is to find a job
  • Transportation to work, health care, recreation, and other places
  • How the young adult will pay for housing and other expenses
  • The total costs of housing, utilities, food, transportation, recreation, and other living expenses
  • The young adult’s eligibility for care and support services and how different living options may support or risk eligibility

Residential Services

People with special health care needs may be eligible for services to help them live at home with Medicaid programs or waivers (see Financing Your Child's Healthcare). Waivers are designed to help the person to live at home, in a supportive setting, at a lower cost than living in an assisted living facility. Services depend on the specific disability and needs. People with special needs might start using residential services when they still live with their parents. Young adults with residential services may be able to live on their own or with others.
Young adults should find out what services there may or may not be for the living arrangements that they are thinking about. While they may want to live far away from parents, the finances and limits on services may be more important. Households should also explore creative solutions such as finding out if a space on the family’s property, such as a garage apartment, would allow the young adult greater freedom without putting care or services at risk. With a garage apartment, mother-in-law, or other types of home on the family property, the family should call the city to find out if local building codes will allow those types of dwellings.

Assisted Living

Young adults who need care and support that their families are not able to give may want to look at assisted living facilities. Young adults who need twenty-four-hour care or that have behaviors that place themselves or others at risk may also need an assisted living environment. These facilities have skilled care and structured activities for residents. Facilities may be limited in rural areas and will usually have visiting hours for families. Families should meet and talk with the administration about the needs of the young adult and the care that they offer. Families should also this check with their health insurance provider since assisted living is often one of the more costly options.
Assisted living supports cover a wide range, from dependent-based facilities to a more independent setting where people can learn needed skills to live on their own. Some things to keep in mind are:
  • Level of care
  • Types of disabilities served
  • 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 work opportunities
  • Place in the community or distance from family and friends
  • The feel of the facility (like a hospital or a home)
State disability agencies can give you information about options in your state. For more information please search our Services Directory for related services.

Group Homes

Young adults may choose to live in a group home with other adults in a supervised and supported environment. Group homes, most often a house in a residential neighborhood, offer a family-type setting. Staff provides training in independence skills and the residents share in the work of the household, like a family working together. The residents may be working outside of the home or doing some 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 it may be a more permanent living situation.
Young adults should fully explore the group home to make sure it will fit well with their disabilities, wants, and needs. Just like every family has its own rules, every house has its differences. Families should ask about:
  • Household chores
  • Choices for work
  • 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 also be considered. Families may want to think about if they want their young adult to live in a home with people with like disabilities, for the sake of household routines, or in a home with people who have other disabilities, for diversity. Families should also study costs and how long they think that the young adult will live in the home.

Section 8 Housing

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 used toward buying a home. The young adult will need to find a place to live and the voucher would be used for the rent, payed directly to the landlord with the rest of the rent and deposits paid by the young adult. Income and other rules may apply and there are often waiting lists for the program. Young adults should call their local Housing Authority for details and to apply. People in the program must keep the apartment or home in good shape and let the Housing Authority know of any changes, such as the number of people living in the apartment and income.
Other resources to help with home ownership are:
  • Community development agencies
  • Resources for making a home accessible
  • Financial assistance and savings programs
Please Housing, Other (see NM providers [212]) or search our Services Directory for related services.


Information & Support

For Parents and Patients

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

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development page for Housing Choice Voucher Program.

Youth/Young Adult Transition Needs Assessment (Word Document 91 KB)
Provides a user-friendly worksheet to help the youth or young adult with special health care needs prepare for transition to adulthood; from the Utah Family Voices Health Information & Support Center, adapted from Florida.

Services for Patients & Families in New Mexico (NM)

For services not listed above, browse our Services categories or search our database.

* number of provider listings may vary by how states categorize services, whether providers are listed by organization or individual, how services are organized in the state, and other factors; Nationwide (NW) providers are generally limited to web-based services, provider locator services, and organizations that serve children from across the nation.

Authors & Reviewers

Initial publication: November 2012; last update/revision: May 2019
Current Authors and Reviewers:
Author: Alfred N. Romeo, RN, PhD
Reviewer: Tina Persels