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There's a photo of Britney Spears on the coffee table. A NASCAR calendar hangs next to the couch. Two yellow ashtrays hold the remains of his Kent Golden Lights.
For the first time in three years, the 27-year-old isn't told when to wake. He isn't told what to wear. He can walk outside at any time of day. He finally enjoys the freedoms of a normal citizen.
At 3 feet 4 inches tall, Lil' G suffers from dwarfism. He also has mild mental retardation.
He tries to play it cool with visitors, but he can't hide his excitement. He's finally out of a nursing home. He's able to pay the $190 monthly rent with his Social Security check and requires only three hours of help -- two in the morning, one in the evening -- per day. He's learning to cook, and a stepladder helps him easily reach his cabinets and freezer.
"I don't have to deal with any more of that nursing home crap," he says.
Lil' G is one of about 200 residents at the rent-controlled, independent-living facility. He lives the life the Supreme Court envisioned when handing down the Olmstead decision. He can take the apartment bus to Wal-Mart, go out to dinner and wander around the mall.
Compared to living in a nursing home, which cost the state $47,000 per year, Lil' G's lawyer, McCrary, estimates that his life in St. Paul's costs the state $20,000 annually.
Lil' G's life is what community-based services are supposed to offer. Lawyers for Rhonda, Maxine and Floyd argue that, with some help, they too could be living in such a setting, with similar freedoms. Rhonda could buy a sweater at the mall and make herself pancakes in a place like St. Paul's. Maxine could visit her daughter and play cards at a senior center with nondisabled people, something she hasn't had the opportunity to do for two decades. Floyd could see his sister and meet other, nondisabled bingo enthusiasts.
Right now, they can't do those things. But under the law, they have the right.
The Olmstead decision recognizes that "confinement in an institution severely diminishes the everyday life activities of individuals, including family relations, social contacts, work options, economic independence, educational advancement, and cultural enrichment."
Jamieson says: "There's a continuing sense of disappointment and frustration that the state doesn't comply with Olmstead, regardless of what the law says. This isn't a way to comply with a civil rights mandate."
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