How HILC Supports the Disabled Community

Harlem Independent Living Center (HILC) is a community-based agency providing services free of charge to individuals with disabilities. We are not a residential program, but do provide the following direct services:


Advocacy aims to make positive changes to attitudes, policies, systems, and laws within the community. These changes can provide benefits and resources to people with disabilities to access the support and services needed to live in an independent environment.

The advocacy effort could be directed at a local, state, or national level and at changing a written or unwritten policy, or a law. People with disabilities are in constant battles of segregation, discrimination, and being ignored in society. Where the action is required will depend on the nature of the problem and which organization has authority over the problem area.

HILC provides individual and system advocacy.

Individual Advocacy involves assisting individuals with efforts to increase their access to services and programs in the community, as well as teaching/supporting individuals how to communicate to obtain necessary support services from the community. This is accomplished by having staff members work with the participants to achieve a specific goal for increased access. The agency offers education to assist individuals with disabilities in understanding their rights and responsibilities as community individuals.

Systems Advocacy seeks to engage local, state, and national leaders in an ongoing dialogue regarding public policy concerning citizens with disabilities. Issues such as accessibility, public accommodations, and transportation significantly promote full inclusion in every aspect of community life. Additionally, HILC promotes self-determination as a component of advocacy and supports employment and voting as necessary self-directed steps along a path to greater independence.

Transition Support

Transition Support is divided into three parts: youth transition, institutional transition, and institutional diversion.

Youth Transition

We aim to support youths graduating high school, pre, post, or enrolled in secondary life. Youth with disabilities often experience difficulty with change, and our program offers services to assist the youths and their families in planning the transition. This can be and is not limited to any IL skill with a particular emphasis on employment and education.

Institutional Transition

HILC provides services to individuals to assist with transitioning from a nursing home or other institution into the community. Staff can work with the individual to help provide the services and support they need to move from an institutionalized setting into the community.

Institutional Diversion

Individuals are at risk of entering a nursing home with limited access to services. HILC provides informational services and resources to assist those individuals to remain independent in the community. This includes follow-up services such as annual recertification, self-advocacy, reasonable accommodation, IL Skills training, peer support, and other services.

Information & Referral

Information & Referral (I&R) is the practice of bringing people and services together. I&R resource databases contain detailed
descriptions of the programs and services provided by community, social, health, and government organizations. The usual goal of the referral is to:

  • Establish a rapport
  • Gather information through active listening
  • Determine the client’s previous efforts
  • Problem solve in a partnership with the client
  • Match resources with needs
  • Identify potential barriers and constraints
  • Make appropriate referrals for services
  • Offer follow-up counsel if appropriate

Peer Support

Peer support is a system of giving and receiving help founded on key principles of respect, shared responsibility, and mutual agreement on what is helpful. Peer support is not based on psychiatric models or diagnostic criteria, it is about understanding another situation empathetically through the shared experience of emotional and psychological pain.

When people find affiliation with others whom they feel are like them, they feel a connection. This connection or affiliation is a deep holistic understanding based on a mutual experience where people are able to be with each other without the constraints of traditional expert-patient relationships.

Further, as trust in the relationship builds both people are able to respectfully challenge each other when they find themselves reenacting old roles this allows members of the peer community to try out new behaviors with one another and move beyond previously held self-concepts built on disability diagnosis and trauma worldview.

Peer support includes the following activities:

  • Sharing experiences
  • Getting support
  • Peer counseling
  • Teaching each other concepts for learning and strategies for living
  • Connect to and participate in a peer community

Independent Living Skills

Independent living skills encompass many skill areas including, but not limited to:

  • Personal care (dressing, grooming, and hygiene)
  • Food preparation
  • Clothing management (laundry sorting and identification)
  • Money management
  • Personal organization material and time management
  • Household maintenance

Independent living skills are basic skills an individual needs to do daily to live an independent life. Persons with disabilities are a diverse group. Some individuals may require assistance with even the most basic life skills, such as tooth brushing. Other individuals with disabilities may need assistance with more complex tasks such as how to manage money, pay taxes and bills, and keep and maintain a home. 

Additional independent living skills include complying with certain legal requirements, such as renewing a driver’s license on time, voting, and notifying law enforcement in the event of a crime. Independent living skills also include maintaining personal hygiene, grooming, seeking medical attention, buying the right sort of foods to eat a nutritionally balanced diet, and making sure that individuals have the clothes they need and wear them appropriately.

Application Assistance

HILC staff help persons with disabilities in the Greater Harlem area with application assistance as follows:

  • Food Stamps
  • Public Assistance Benefits
  • SSI and SSDI
  • Medicaid and Medicare
  • Housing Information
  • New York City School Tax and New York State Renters’ Credits

HILC does not refuse any reasonable request for accommodations (ADA-Title 111).