When Anne Johansen imagined the difficulties of living in a nursing home, she was mostly nervous about the food and potential privacy issues. Those ended up being the least of her worries. Johansen went through four separate nursing homes over seven years — moving due to mistreatment and safety concerns.
Over the course of her time in nursing homes, Johansen witnessed lots of psychological abuse and neglect. She advocated for change in the numerous places where she lived in, but became frustrated with the nursing home system as a whole. A friend and former social worker recommended the Boston Center for Independent Living to Johansen, who then began the long journey of transitioning to her own accessible apartment.
Johansen, who was diagnosed when she was 6 years-old with CMT (Charcot Marie Tooth Disease), is one of the many people with disabilities in Massachusetts who’ve faced housing discrimination. She’s become an advocate for housing issues, working to ensure that people with disabilities can find a home that’s both accessible and affordable.
Johansen lobbies for better housing policies alongside Lenny Somervell, a community organizer at the Disability Policy Consortium. Somervell has worked on housing, healthcare and civil rights issues for people with disabilities for years, both at the federal and Massachusetts state level, and says there’s a strong systemic link between inequality and disability across the country.