Finding the Way Home – A New Book About the Community Living Movement
After working 32 years with Community Living Ontario, and 41 years in the community living movement, I made the decision to retire effective at the end of 2019. My job at Community Living Ontario was to assist the Association to monitor, analyze and respond to issues of public policy that affect people who have an intellectual disability and their families. In this role, I became the caretaker of the social policy positions that our movement has evolved over the past seven-plus decades. I committed before leaving to compile a record of the policies and ideas that have guided Community Living Ontario along with the key advocacy initiatives we have been involved with. The result was a book published by Community Living Ontario, titled Finding the Way Home.
The title of the book is a reference to a question asked by a grandmother back in 1948. On September 29 of that year, Victory Glover penned a letter to the editor of the Toronto Star on behalf of her 8-year old grandson who had an intellectual disability and whose parents had died. Struggling to find support for her grandson, Victoria Glover asked why her grandson and other children had to be sent away to the institution in Orillia to get the support they needed, and asked why that support could not be provided in their home community near family and friends. The book tells the story of the 70 parents who met in response to Mrs. Glover’s letter at Carlton Street United Church on November 4, 1948, and formed the first parent association that would eventually become the community living movement.
For more than 70 years, the movement that Mrs. Glover and the other parents formed has worked to find a way home for all of those who were at risk of being excluded from their community. While the movement began with an effort to build special schools for children who had an intellectual disability, our understanding of what true inclusion in society means has evolved significantly over the decades. Finding the Way Home traces the evolution in thinking and advocacy by the movement in all aspects of life including education, employment, housing, justice, human rights, the right to personhood, and other things.
Along the way, as ideas evolved, the community living movement has been committed to constant self-evaluation. As our understanding of what true social inclusion means evolved, we have frequently reassessed our positions and actions, often advocating for the discontinuation of things that we ourselves have built. Through our advocacy, specialized segregated schools built by our movement have been replaced by increasingly inclusive education options for people. Sheltered workshops built by our local Associations have closed in favour of community employment options. The government-run institutions closed in favour of community-based housing options created by our movement, and, increasingly, those housing options are more and more individualized and focused on what each person wants. Finding the Way Home explores the ever-changing road we have taken to address each of these issues and others.
Many who are committed to the community living movement worry that we risk losing parts of our history and collective knowledge as those of us that have been involved for long periods step back from the roles we have played. Finding the Way Home is my modest attempt to record some of what I have learned in hopes that it is of value to those who pick up the work in the future.
Finding the Way Home is available to order online here. Or simply go to Lulu.com and search for the title or author. A paperback copy of the book is available for $14 plus shipping and/or there is a free eBook version available on the same site.
Written By Gordon Kyle, Previous Director of Policy at Community Living Ontario