JFCS seeks feedback on shared housing for disabled

"We've long felt that there is a need for shared housing for people with disabilities," says Abby Kovalsky, coordinator of the Disabilities Project. "With this survey we hope to help people with similar needs find each other."

"The concept is to combine resources with others who need attendant care so we can all afford to live independently and have someone available to help us take care of our activities of daily living," says Levinson, who developed MS when he was 30.

He envisions two or three people with disabilities sharing accessible housing with an attendant who would get free room and board and a small salary in exchange for his or her assistance.

The retired insurance adjuster was married from 1971 until 1990. He has two children, a 24-year-old daughter living in Los Angeles and a 19-year-old son in Washington, D.C. After his divorce, Levinson, a member of Congregation Sherith Israel, lived on his own in San Francisco's South Beach area. "I was still out there, playing the dating game from a wheelchair," he says. "I met some great women and had some great relationships."

In 1994, his disease progressed. An exacerbation of symptoms sent him to Mount Zion Hospital for six weeks. Afterward, the need for an increased level of care — and increased costs — meant he had to move to Laguna Honda Hospital, a city-owned long-term care facility.

"The staff is wonderful. I couldn't ask for better care," says Levinson in response to the federal report criticizing the facility. Despite his regard for the staff at Laguna Honda, however, Levinson wants a place to call his own.

A member of the JFCS Disabilities Project speakers bureau, "I'm Somebody Too," Levinson visits schools to talk about what it's like to live with MS.

"It's wonderful for the kids to see that a person in a wheelchair is just that — a person," he says.

For information about participating in the Shared Housing Survey, call Kovalsky at (415) 561-1224.