At 24 years old, Liam Aaron (pictured, right) is thankful for many things in his life. He’s thankful for the two jobs he works regularly and the joy and contributions he brings to both of them. He’s thankful for his incredibly supportive family and his life coach Tom (pictured, left), who helps guide him through life’s challenges. As any twentysomething would be, he’s of course, thankful for his Xbox.
What he may be most thankful for these days is a place to call his own and independence that he and his family could only dream of for many years. Thanks to Maryland Inclusive Housing, Liam has that place and is on his way to seeing his dream of independence come true.
Liam was diagnosed with autism at 19 months and for most of his life, he has struggled with limited verbal communication ability.
“The goal was always to help Liam reach the highest level of independence he can,” said his mother, Carole-Lena. “One day, he’ll be paying his own bills and doing his own things.”
Liam has helped his family stay on solid ground by excelling in the work world, holding down several jobs since he’s become an adult. The logical next step for him and his family is finding a place to live independently.
Finding the right type of housing for Liam is not as simple as it is for those without autism. The Aaron family wanted to find a safe environment and a program in which Liam could thrive while adapting to his new independence. They found what they were looking for in the Integrated Living Opportunities (ILO) program, which fosters social interaction and offers life coaching support for individuals with disabilities through community pods. Liam lives in a vibrant apartment building in the heart of Rockville Square, which hosts five other ILO pod members.
In the spring of 2022, the Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County told the family that Liam’s name had come up to receive a voucher for housing, but the Aaron family encountered several roadblocks before securing the apartment.
Enter Maryland Inclusive Housing and community living coordinator Lauren Silverstone. At the suggestion of ILO, Carol-Lena reached out to Lauren to help navigate the voucher process. To help the Aaron family secure the apartment of their dreams for Liam, Lauren used her comprehensive understanding of the inclusive housing landscape in Montgomery County, and specifically Rockville, to help the family overcome conflicts that had prevented Liam from getting his apartment.
“I was upset, but Lauren was calm,” said Carole-Lena. “She knew what to do, was responsive and acted quickly. Had it not been for Lauren, we would not have been able to get this apartment.”
The Aaron family developed a plan to acclimate Liam to his new home, which he moved into in November. He was able to pick out the colors of his furniture, the plates and all the furnishings so it would be just the way he liked it. He’s spending more and more time in the apartment as he gets used to it.
Liam plays video games with Tom and loves to cook meals in the kitchen. He has also started a work-study program with Dawson’s Market in Rockville, where he is stocking shelves with food and drinks.
“Individuals and families often encounter barriers while navigating the complex bureaucracy of housing voucher procedures,” said Lauren. “MIH is pleased to assist individuals in untangling this web of regulations and help them obtain and maintain their chosen home.”