The need to address the crisis in affordable and appropriate housing options for adults with intellectual disabilities was front and centre at a housing forum held earlier this week in Toronto.
Hosted by the Inspired by Our Grassroots Steering Committee, the Provincial Executive Directors Coordinating Committee and Community Living Ontario, Ideas to Build On was an extension of last year’s housing forum.
Attendees heard from representatives from the Ministry of Community and Social Services, the Developmental Services Housing Task Force and 10 of 12 recently announced pilot projects.
The presentations throughout the day allowed people to learn more about the various innovative and collaborative initiatives taking place across the province.
Mary Kopcok was part of the delegation from Windsor-Essex that received $870,000 over two years for their project, Continuing Housing Innovation in Windsor-Essex.
The funding will enable homes to be either purchased or renovated and secondary suites created. Rent supplements and housing allowances will also be made available to some of the participants.
The initiative is being led by the Windsor-Essex Innovative Housing Project Advisory Group, a partnership that includes Community Living Windsor, the City of Windsor, Windsor-Essex Brokerage for Personal Supports and the Windsor-Essex Family Network.
Kopcok is a Board member with the Windsor-Essex Family Network and the sister of 29-year-old Matthew, one of eight people involved in the project. She was pleased that there’s recognition that families are looking for different options and “something innovative that doesn’t necessarily fall within traditionally funded support from MCSS, in terms of providing housing and supports to adults with intellectual disabilities.”
With the project funding, the family home will be renovated to include a secondary suite for Matthew, something his sister says they’re excited about.
“We’ve always tried to keep Matt in community and as part of our family. We include him in everything and segregated programs have never appealed to him or us, and so we’re very fortunate for the timing of this. It seems to coincide, essentially, with the time we’re thinking Matt wants a place of his own.”
Mike Town, Executive Director of Community Living North Perth, was surprised at the variety of projects that were presented, and he’s looking forward to hearing about the outcomes and what can be shared.
“They were all very different and there are a lot of little pieces that we can all take away from. I’m from a rural town in Listowel, and to be able to afford to live on your own, but yet have some supports in your life, is sometimes hard to come by.”
Community Living North Perth and Habitat for Humanity received $60,000 in funding over two years to create an affordable housing option for two gentlemen with intellectual disabilities. Habitat for Humanity will build a semi-detached house where they will live on their own and a family will occupy the other half.
“Habitat for Humanity provides houses for people that have income difficulties and they are going to help our organization with the mortgage,” added Town. “It’ll be interest free, which will help the gentlemen afford, based on their ODSP capabilities, to live in an affordable house that’s brand new.”
Sandra McNamara, Executive Director of Community Living North Grenville, also attended the forum. She says her association is trying to determine whether it will continue to offer residential supports or provide strictly support services.
“I’m really interested in how you create a separate entity or a housing task force or a housing corporation, and not just for us, but for affordable housing in our own community.”
McNamara says her organization did not submit one of the 80 proposals during the first round of expressions of interest, but she does anticipate putting forward a proposal for the next round.
She also sees the discussion on housing as an opportunity for community partnerships and “working with builders, our township and mental health service providers, with a focus to bring them all together to determine how to build affordable housing in North Grenville.”
The second call for expressions of interest is expected in the coming months. Ron Pruessen, Chair of the Developmental Services Housing Task Force, says they will be making a recommendation to the Ministry of Community and Social Services on dates for the announcement and deadline for proposals.
“[The process] went pretty smoothly the last time. My guess is that probably after Friday’s meeting (November 13), we may need another two to three, maybe even four weeks, depending on how things are backed up at the Ministry level to get the formal approval for the announcement date and the proposal deadline. I would find it very hard to imagine that we won’t have the announcement by the middle of December, and that we won’t have a proposal deadline at some point in February.”
During his presentation, Pruessen encouraged attendees to continue to pressure the government by advocating and coming up with new ideas. He also shared that he’s confident one of the Task Force’s recommendations to the Ministry of Community and Social Services will be that it continue in some capacity.
“Something like the Housing Task Force, people outside of the Ministry with a wide range of experience, need to keep contributing to the discussion, making recommendations and continue to have resources to work with. I find it hard to imagine that the Ministry wouldn’t see the logic of that. Technically speaking this is a two-year initiative, the Housing Task Force, but I have a strong feeling that it’s going to continue after that.”
Details on the various projects are available by clicking on the links below.
Housing D Project– Partners for Planning
Bridges to Housing Project – City of Toronto, Community Living Toronto and InnerCity Family Health Team
Community Hub Residential Model – Community Living Campbellford/Brighton and Campbellford Memorial Hospital
Imaginative Living Options – Community Living Brant and City of Brantford Housing Department
Peterborough Transition-Aged Youth Transitional Housing Pilot Project – Canadian Mental Health Association and Community Living organizations in Peterborough, Haliburton and Kawartha Lakes
Neighbourly Homes – Community Living St. Marys and Area, City of Stratford, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and Habitat for Humanity
Housing Trust Project – Citizen Advocacy Ottawa and Families Matter Cooperative
Moving East – Durham Association for Family Respite Services, Brockville Association for Community Involvement, Community Involvement Legacy Homes and Intentionally Built Community.
– Ron Laroche, Community Living Ontario