Community Living Alternatives (CLA) Corp, is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit charitable organization. CLA was founded in 1987 and provides residential support services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Northern Virginia.

Founded on the belief that everyone deserves a safe, supportive, and integrated place to call home, we operate 12 homes for 42 individuals in the Northern Virginia region. CLA promotes the individual development and enhancement of daily living skills, participation in community and involvement with family and friends. We provide residential supports that meet the unique needs of each individual and work in close collaboration with county support coordinators, families and experts to develop the appropriate person centered plan of services. Relationships are the basis for all of the work we do. Whether a staff member has worked with an individual for 30 years or 30 days, there is an emphasis on dignity, respect, choice and collaboration.

In our residential program, each individual is entitled to their own bedroom to ensure opportunities for privacy. Maintaining this policy in spite of fiscal pressures is a priority for CLA. Additionally, because the individuals in our programs often found themselves coping with high emotional and material cost of relocating from one rental to another, CLA adopted a new long term goal in 2001: Converting rented CLA homes to ownership in order to bring some aspect of consistency into the lives of the individuals in our program. By 2010, thanks to the generosity of our community private and public partners, 82% of individuals live in homes owned by CLA from which they won’t have to move unless they choose to.

CLA is currently pursuing new opportunities to assist individuals who are still in need of residential and support services.


CLA enhances the quality of life for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities through community based supports.

We challenge assumptions and expand the boundaries of what is possible through the following values:

  • Involving individuals and families in the design, operation and monitoring of services.
  • Recruiting, training and developing caring staff.
  • Tirelessly advocating for person centered approaches.
  • Fostering the development of functional life skills.
  • Maintaining family sized homes in the individual’s own community.
  • Fostering the developmental of relationships with other community members.
  • Striving for a continuous improvement.


Community Living Alternatives incorporated in 1987 under the leadership of founder Dr. Susan Perlik and several strong advocates, with a mission of enhancing the quality of life for adults living with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

In 1989, four adults who had been living in institutions transitioned to life in the community: CLA was licensed by Virginia’s Department of Mental Health Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services (now DBHDS, The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services). This four person home was the very first four bed Intermediate Care Facility in Virginia. Since that time, CLA has grown and currently operates ten group homes in Fairfax, Annandale, and Springfield, in addition to the original ICF, as well as supervised residential services in Arlington.

In 2001, the Board of Directors approved a change in housing policy in order to provide a long term affordable housing solution that was not subject to rental market volatility. Currently, most individuals receiving supportive services reside in homes sponsored by CLA from which they will only move when they choose to or when CLA can no longer meet their needs.