Organization demands Illinois provide more resources for those with disabilities

Clearbrook working to provide assisted housing for those with intellectual, developmental disabilities

Jasmine Minor Image
Monday, April 8, 2024
Organization demands IL provide more for those with disabilities
Clearbrook is demanding Illinois provide more resources for those with intellectual disability issues. Staff makes just over minimum wage, they said.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- One organization is demanding the state provide more resources for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Clearbrook said that starts with more pay for staff, so their clients have more places to live.

There are currently 15,000 families on a waiting list for houses like the one Chris Schaschwary now has.

His mother said Monday it took her eight years to find a home for her son.

Schaschwary got to decorate his room himself.

"I do feel like he will be taken care of when I'm no longer here," his mother said.

Penny Schaschwary said, after her husband died, she was fearful her son, who has Down syndrome, wouldn't be fully taken care of.

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"I was doing this alone these last 10 years, and I really needed some support," she said.

That support came through Clearbrook, an organization trying to meet a desperate need for families across the state. With so many families looking for help, Clearbrook CEO Jessica Smart said it starts with hiring more staff.

"I can't open a new house and commit care to individuals if I don't have the staff to provide that care," Smart said. "It's assisting with cooking dinner, taking somebody to their job, taking somebody on a medical appointment."

But more staff won't come, Smart said, until direct support professionals are paid what they're worth. She said the state only pays them a little over minimum wage.

"Since 2019, it's risen $0.37 over minimum wage," Smart said.

That's why she's pushing for Illinois to pass a bill currently being discussed in Springfield that increases the wages another $3. It will help those like Chris Schaschwary and his new roommate, Cody Bitto, get the chance of independence, from cooking their favorites, to guys' night out, to seeing a musical.

Their parents can now take a deep sigh of relief.

"My hope is that he just blossoms and that he'll think of this as home," Penny Schaschwary said.