Every individual with MCS needs housing that is “safe” (tolerable) for that individual in order to heal and avoid becoming even more sensitive. Unfortunately, the vast majority of conventional housing is not safe, mainly due to: toxic building products and practices, pesticides, and carpet; widespread occurrence of mold; use of lawn care products and other chemicals by neighbors; and fumes from industry and highways.
People with MCS who can afford it generally build specially constructed housing using safe materials, or remodel existing housing. Affordable MCS housing developments are desperately needed. Obstacles include lack of funds, agreement about location, and energy for completion.
At this time, Ecology House, in California is the only public low income dwelling in the US specially built for people with MCS. There is a long-standing official MCS community in Seagoville, Texas, and a new one, Quail Haven, just north of Tucson, Arizona. Informal MCS communities can be found on the Net and in MCS newsletters. New MCS communities are in the planning stages in Texas and Utah.
Many chemically sensitive people do not have adequately tolerated shelter and are forced to live at times in their vehicles (this includes people who rent or even own housing but cannot live in it, either because the home itself is unsafe, or because of pesticides, painting, roofing, asphalting, etc. in the neighborhood).
Camping in campgrounds is an option but can be difficult due bathroom cleaners, wood smoke and barbecues. If you are in a desperate situation, contact the local MCS Support Group and tell them so.
Housing in the Tucson area…
Temporary lodging: see HEAL of Southern Arizona’s Safe Lodging List for member recommendations. Some have had success camping out at Catalina Sate Park, Gilbert Ray Campground, or on Mount Lemmon.
Rentals: Be forewarned that is extremely difficult for people with MCS to find “safe” (tolerable) rental housing in Tucson due to the widespread use of pesticides, carpeting, and gas appliances.
Buying/building: Those who can afford it generally either buy and remodel existing housing, or build pesticide-free, all-electric homes with tile floors, low-VOC paints, etc. HEAL of Southern Arizona’s Building Materials Packet, Lending Library, the Internet, and the Public Library, contain information on safe building and remodeling. Property is available in the Quail Haven area (see Official MCS Communities, below).
Public housing: Tucson has no safe public housing facilities for people with MCS. Those in need of low-cost housing often either apply for Section 8 or renovate old trailers.
Selecting a Location in the US …
The Search for a Toxin Free Shangri-la from CINN.
Scorecard, a great site with maps of environmental information for entire US.
Share/Care/Prayer has a booklet that honestly describes EI communities in the SW, emphasizing the great variation in what is “safe” for EI's. Write to them and ask for the "Diary of My trip to the Southwest".
MCS Apartments …
Ecology House, San Rafael, CA. An 11 unit low-income apartment building, the only multiple unit housing to date built for the Chemically Sensitive. This site has a good account of the project.
The Natural Place, In Florida, (also listed under motels) will rent on monthly and yearly rates. It is not low-income housing.
The Environmental Health Center in Dallas operates 18 apartments (only for their patients).
Official MCS Communities …
Seagoville, SE of Dallas has been in existence for 20 years.
Quail Haven, located just north of Tucson AZ: Diane Ensign has developed an MCS community of 1.5-acre lots for safe building. There is more acreage for sale across the road, which Diane will help others develop.
Short Term Rentals and Traveling…
The Natural Place, In Florida
Housing Information Exchange…
Note: Homes and rooms advertised in MCS newsletters as "safe” may or may not be safe for you.
BE VERY CAREFUL: make a list of your requirements, call and ask lots of questions, call support group members in the area, then visit the place before making a commitment.
Shared Housing Exchange (ShoE) An interchange by CIIN, you must subscribe to CIIN newsletter to participate. Note: e-mail from CINN, dated 6/30/01 "The SHoE is still an on-going project. We have had several members withdraw from the SHoE because they found housing."
MCS Newsletters: Go to MCS Links
Organizations for Creating Housing / Planned Communities…
Healthy Housing Coalition, in Sante Fe NM, This organization seems to be defunct at this time, but the web page can be accessed.
Advocating For Low-Income Safe(r) Accessible Housing…Per Susan Molloy…
Here are three good resources to use in advocating for low-income safe(r) accessible housing:
1. HUD's Information Clearinghouse at 800-483-8929. Request their new "Super NOFA" (Notice of Funding Availability) booklet. It describes over a dozen HUD programs through which we can apply for financial and planning assistance, either as individual users of Section 8, housing authorities, or as non-profit community groups.
2. Contact the National Low-Income Housing Coalition and request literature, or see their web pages: N.L.I.H.C., 1012 Fourteenth Street NW, Suite 610, Washington DC 20005 (202) 662-1530;
3. Join DRACH, the best cross-disability accessible housing advocates' group: Disability Rights Action Coalition for Housing, 501 SW Jackson Street, Suite 100-B, Topeka, KS 66603 (785) 233-4572 (v/tdd). E-mail: Disability Rights Action Coalition for Housing
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Copyright 2001-2010, HEAL of Southern Arizona. All rights reserved. Version 1.0 Updated: 1/12/2010