How to Find Community While on Disability

Artwork: Robin Mead

If you are community-minded, there are many groovy, interesting, creative communities out there of every size, shape and flavor.

Your disability check is going to be the same wherever you go. In a community, you may find it goes a lot further and takes you a lot more interesting places.

Many people find intentional communities are a way to be less isolated, have a higher quality of life, and live in a more meaningful way.

Here is a list of over 1,000 intentional communities: communes, eco-villages, community farms, land trusts, artist communities, cooperative houses, spiritual communities, co-housing, and bunches more.

Here is a list of dreamers and seekers looking to start their own communities or find their “people.” You can post your dreams here or read through and see what others have posted.

In the quest for you new home, here’s a few things to watch for, and a few things to watch out for:


If you are simply looking for cheap housing, this won’t be a good match for you. These communities are seeking people who are like-minded and genuinely wish to be part of their community life.


Most people visit more than one community before finding one they click with. For a person with disabilities, this is easier said then done. If you are able, it is nice to be able to explore.


Don’t be shocked if what you read on the website is not the same as what you find when you arrive. Some people are “aspirational” when writing these websites. The person who wrote the website may have had big dreams. They may also be long gone by now.


Some communities ask for work contributions and others do not. If you are too ill to work, it is still possible to find a community that may be a great match for you. In some places, the work contribution is small, like one day per month. If you cannot build buildings or dig ditches, there are usually some gentler, more sedentary way you can contribute.


Don’t be scared off if you feel you don’t have enough to contribute. If you are a nice person, and you get along well with the people there, and you have a stable income from your disability check, and you wish to be part of the community life, there are many communities that may be happy to have you there. Try being persistent and contacting as many communities as you can, and try being patient, as people may need a little time to get to know you and your situation. In time you will find something that is a good match.


In some communities, all finances are separate and each person has their own independent life. Other communities are “income sharing” or “egalitarian” and resources and money are shared. Income sharing is a very different lifestyle than most of us are used to. Some people find they really love it.


We were under the mistaken impression that all income-sharing communities would be looking for full-time work contributions to the community. Apparently, not so! The nice folks from the Fellowship For Intentional Communities were kind enough to point out the error of our ways: “Some income-sharing communities may have a full-time work week, but others have a more flexible approach (like the one in this article: A Radical Idea: Four City Dwellers Share All Their Money). Some may actually be ideal for people with disabilities.”


If you are disabled, some newly-forming communities may not be the best match for you. These communities are often looking for people that can construct buildings and cultivate the land. Keep an eye out for more established communities where the buildings are already built.


If you are unable to care for yourself and need assistance, you may find it difficult or impossible to find a community that will accommodate this. Try looking into homecare programs that can provide you with a caregiver. This may give you more options for more communities to join. All states offer caregiving programs to help people with disabilities in their homes. However, the types of caregiving, ways to qualify, and hours available vary wildly from state to state.


Some communities are quite pricey and some are dirt cheap. “Co-housing” communities in particular tend to be on the pricey, middle class side. If you are poor, may not be a good match. But if you see somewhere you just love, it does not hurt to contact them and ask. Someone in the community may have a room or space available for rent.


Some communities require a buy-in or join fee or land purchase. For a new or forming community, it may be hard to join in if you don’t have financial means.


Please don’t be scared off by all join fees. In an older established community, you may find the join-in fees to be a bit more flexible. If the community is large and located in an isolated area, there are more than likely a few houses or rooms sitting empty by now. Someone might be quite pleased to rent you one of these places, and you might be quite pleased with the amount of rent they charge.


There are a few exceptions about your check. Most of the time your disability check will be the same wherever you go. There are a few exceptions. If you are on SSI, you will find that some states add a small supplement to your check. The amount is quite small everywhere except California. SSDI is, as advertised, exactly the same everywhere you go. SSDI will allow you to live in most other countries. SSI will require you to stay in the US. If you have no idea what we are talking about here, read this.


In some communities all your finances are kept separate and you just do your own thing. Others have a more alternative approach to money. It’s a good idea to talk with the community and create an arrangement that will work for you. It may be helpful to keep in mind that the amount of rent you pay can change your SSI check. The way you buy and eat food can change your Food Stamps. Also, if you sign on as a co-owner on any community businesses or properties, this could cause complications with your Medicaid or other benefits.


Being a wild adventurer is not the only way to find community. You can also stay home and create community right where you are: How to Find Wonderful Housemates & Caregivers

Happy questing. Here’s hoping you find your people, and the community of your dreams.

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