Updated on 1/28/2017
Group homes have become one of the fastest growing businesses within the human services field. More states are moving to community-based services and downsizing large institutions. This transition has created an increase in demand for group homes that allow residents to live in regular neighborhoods and become a part of their community. This change in treatment focus has made the group home business extremely competitive. Established agencies are getting competition from new providers looking to profit from the much sought out Medicaid dollar. Why wouldn’t they cash in? Group homes can make anywhere from $80,000 - $90,000 a year per resident. This doesn’t even include rent that is also paid to the group home agency from SSI benefits. Residential services are one of the most important services case managers have to coordinate. Extreme care should be taken when helping clients find the right home. You would do the same if you were looking for a home for your family. The same care should be taken for your clients. I have listed a few things that families look for in a group home and how you can create a great home experience for your clients.
Location- Location is an important factor when thinking about opening a group home for several reasons. Choosing the right city, neighborhood, and area is critical in attracting clientele and creating the most appropriate environment. Research the cities that would work best for your agency. In my experience, most group homes tend to be in the same city as the central office. This allows for a quick response in the case of a medical or behavioral emergency. Once established, agencies can expand to multiple cities.
You may want to choose a location that is away from busy streets for safety purposes. Many clients tend to wander and a busy street may pose a hazard.
Funding- Funding sources also play a key role in determining where you decide to set up a group home. Most homes that serve the intellectually disabled are funded through Medicaid Waiver. Each state administers the Waiver system differently. Based on my experience, larger cities tend to receive more waiver “slots” or individual funding allocations for clients. Larger cities often tend to have more people on the wait list for services and are more likely to receive a larger allocation of waiver slots.
Timing is also important when considering the funding source. States usually allocate wavier funding every fiscal year, which begins on July 1st and ends on June 30th each year. The end of July and the beginning of August is one of the best times to conduct open houses and grand openings for new group homes.
Accessibility-Accessibility is also a key aspect when looking to start a group home. The ideal home would have bedrooms downstairs and upstairs to accommodate clients who are less mobile. Wheelchair ramps and handicap friendly bathrooms are also good selling points. Wheelchair access is important and ranch style homes seem to do well for group homes since everything is on the first floor. This style of home is ideal for residents with mobility issues.
Privacy- Privacy is also important. Shared bedrooms are a mistake in my opinion. I’ve seen providers do this to make more money. However, adults need privacy and it can cause some liability issues. Honestly, shared bedrooms are pretty much a "no" in my book. I feel if you're going to pay $600-$700 (or more in some cases) in rent, you should at least have your own room.
Community Activity- Group homes should be providing more than just a roof and a place to sleep. Residents should be involved in community activities and receive training to become more independent. Some case managers have done home visits between 4:30pm and 5:00pm and witnessed residents preparing for bed. Residents are required to have some skill building activities.
Develop Connections- Developing professional connections is important when starting any business. This is especially true when working in the human services field. Word of mouth referrals from case managers and other human services professionals account for most group home placements. Most Waiver programs require a case manager to be involved in the coordination of services so it’s important to establish good professional relationships with local Community Services Boards and Human Services Departments.
Create a Website- Just about everyone has access to the internet. Websites provide a great opportunity to market your agency. Case managers can provide this information to families and they can research the agencies for themselves. The website also provides an opportunity for a virtual tour before the face to face site visit. The virtual tour is also a useful tool for case managers who are often too busy to tour every new group home when it opens.
Use Social Media- Social is another free method to market your program. Facebook and Twitter are probably the best platforms to market and provide information about the services that you can provide.
Local Agencies- The last but not the least is the old fashion phone call or providing information to local agencies. Some public agencies designate an area for provider information and this can be distributed to potential clients and families. This is the perfect place to leave your company business cards, brochures, and pens, etc.