What is Bring Your Own Independence at Main Street?

13 Dec, 2023

Maybe you don’t live anywhere near Rockville, Maryland, but Main Street is a good concept to file in your bank of ideas as you plan where your young person with additional needs will live one day.

Main Street is a non-profit organization that provides housing for 150 people, of which around 50 self-identify as having a disability, so it brings together people with and without disabilities. Its mission is to create “dynamic opportunities through affordable, inclusive housing and community engagement so people of all abilities can live their best lives.” And it wants to spread this model to other parts of the country.


Main Street opened its doors in August 2020, and had over 11,000 phone calls enquiring about the 70 units available. These are affordable housing unit with 25% of the units set aside for people with disabilities. Part of the reason for this is to foster greater inclusion as well as provide housing for people who have fewer options to live independently.  


The reason I’ve become so fascinated by Main Street’s story is its BYOI – Bring Your Own Independence model. When Main Street opened, it wasn’t in a position to offer 1:1 support to people. Instead, at the suggestion of one of the parents, it adopted a unique approach if people needed support, they would bring that support with them, so the level of support they wanted was up to the individual themselves.

For example, if someone needed support to do daily tasks, they brought with them their own support person. If someone needed assistance at a yoga class (or any of their community activities) they brought that support with them.

Support By Choice

One of the things Jillian Copeland, the founder of Main Street, discussed in her interview with Debra Caldow on the Expanding Worlds Podcast in Episode 114 was the impact that this BYOI approach had. Jillian talked about the fact that because of the BYOI model many people chose over time to have less support.

There is no doubt that often support is essential to enable independence, but I sometimes find that my daughter when she is put in a position where she has to do something without support, she can often do more than she thought possible. The knock effect of that is her increased confidence and self-belief. Maybe it’s sometimes more about getting the balance around levels of support, so support enables people to do more whilst not discouraging independence


There’s so much to like about, think about, and rethink about Main Street’s philosophy. Main Street is an innovative project, literally built from the ground up, but it has become so much more for the people that benefit from its services. I wish I had an option like Main Street near where I live.

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