ALBANIA – Brooklyn residents Eli Finkelstein and Dina Wolf met two years ago at a meeting for people with disabilities.
Two days after the event, Finkelstein reached out to Wolf. She not only returned his call, but also his text, he said.
Then, last summer, Finkelstein asked the question, but now the couple are faced with the daunting task of finding accommodation together that meets both needs, keeps them close to their families and enables them to continue their Orthodox Jewish faith to watch, said Finkelstein’s father, Ira Finkelstein.
“It’s a very strong relationship. Nothing (the State Department for People with Developmental Disabilities – OPWDD) does is going to make us break up. We are very close, ”said Eli Finkelstein. “We just hope to be married and we need the supportive environment to be married.”
The couple live in separate supportive housing units in Brooklyn: Eli Finkelstein, 29, at the Hebrew Academy for Special Children (HASC); Wolf, 30, at OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services. However, the elder Finkelstein was unable to find a suitable unit in either organization and has received little assurance that housing will soon be made available.
Ira Finkelstein said he wanted to secure accommodation for the couple with HASC as they already had accommodation for married couples, but the state’s OPWDD would not provide the funds to create unity for the couple.
“Eli and Dina are going to play table tennis,” he said. “OPWDD has tried to get the agencies to use the existing housing stock to do this. The agencies say that given the amount of budget cuts they have made over the past year and a half, they cannot afford to do so. “
And OPWDD can’t force an agency to reconfigure existing beds, said the elder Finkelstein.
Ira Finkelstein, a former psychiatrist and social worker, has mobilized to stand up for his son and future daughter-in-law. He contacted the state legislators in the disability committees of the respective houses. regularly makes contact with OPWDD contacts and has checked their legal options.
“I don’t think the agencies will do that, and OPWDD is telling me we can’t force the agency. Where are Eli and Dina? “he said.” Does that mean they’re going to wait this terrible budget crisis to get married? One year, two years until the effects of the pandemic are over?
HASC has not returned any requests for comment for this story. OHEL officials said the elder Finkelstein did not contact them regarding housing a couple, but found that they are providing accommodation and services to nine couples and are working to accommodate residents who seek that option later.
OPWDD officials also did not comment on the couple’s situation or answer questions from Capitol Insider, but reiterated its commitment to people with disabilities.
“Personal relationships are an important part of everyone’s life, and OPWDD strives to provide support in the most appropriate living environment possible based on the specific needs of each person,” the agency said in a statement to individuals and couples with developmental disabilities, dependent of their needs, including self-management of their services, living in their own apartment with the right support, or in a supportive group home. “
Ira Finkelstein challenged OPWDD’s commitment given his son’s situation: “I’m just trying to break the deadlock so that Eli … and Dina can reach their maximum potential, which I thought was OPWDD’s goal in relation to their clients . “
Officials at the Center for Disability Rights, which provides services to seniors and people with disabilities as part of an independent living model, said supportive housing is often difficult to navigate because of its conditionality. Housing can get even more complicated when couples with disabilities choose to live together, said Greg Beratan, director of the Center for Legal Affairs.
“We have put up barriers. People can lose accomplishments when they get married. So there are things that actively prevent people from getting married, but there are many disabled people who do it anyway, ”he said. “Unfortunately, they have to deal with a system that is geared towards them.”
It is waiting for housing that has stalled the couple’s progress, said the engaged couple. Everyone was told they were working on it.
“We look forward to the marriage and our life together,” said Dina Wolf. “We want to get her to move faster because we really wanted to get married this time before March, but since we don’t have a place to stay, we have to postpone the wedding. We just want them to try to get it done asap so we can have the wedding. “
Ruth Finkelstein, Eli’s mother, and Ira Finkelstein described in awe the progress their son had made over the years. People often rejected Eli Finkelstein’s ability to keep a job; live alone and even get married, she said.
“There have been enough nos in Eli’s life, but unfortunately I can’t turn that into a yes,” she said. “You are so nice and loving to one another. You are best friends. It is very sad to me that we have to fight so hard so that they have an adequate place to live with the supervision they need. “
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