Here are stories from people who have an intellectual or developmental disability and their families. They illustrate the challenges that exist in the Developmental Services sector.
My son has every right to choose how, where, and with whom he wants to live
“Is this a cradle to grave responsibility for us?”
That’s what Waterloo resident and Home of Their Own co-founder Deborah Pfeiffer asked then-Minister of Community and Social Services Helena Jaczek in a November 17th, 2017 letter regarding the government’s noncommittal approach to an innovative housing project.
Her 24-year-old son, Hayden, has a developmental disability and requires round-the-clock care. In 2011, she, her husband, and two other sets of parents purchased a home together. They envisioned their three sons moving into the home, along with some support staff, allowing the men to live independently while getting help where needed.
The families had hoped to receive funding from the Developmental Services Housing Task Force to offset the tremendous costs of this plan, in addition to using their personal resources and some support offered from a community agency.
Deborah says the government would only commit to such financial aid if the group was willing to allow three additional men with a disability to move into the basement of the home.
Home of Their Own, however, believed the ministry’s counterproposal seemed more like a ‘group home’ setting, rather than having their sons live independently with supports. Pfeiffer points out, in the letter to Minister Jaczek, that the three men are already good friends, and that they aim for a situation like any other group of buddies that decides to get their own place.
“My son,” the letter reads, “like you and I, has every right to choose how, where, and with whom he wants to live, and have the same opportunity to obtain funding to support his model.”
“Our model allows each young man their own individualized day program weekly, Monday to Friday… How would this…be unlike my other typical son who could purchase a home, take in two roommates, share meals and expenses with his housemates, and go rock climbing with one of them on a Saturday because they both enjoy that activity?”
The Minister addressed these complaints in a 2016 response, citing 12 community projects the Housing Task Force approved for that year. While Home of Their Own’s house was not approved, Minister Jaczek encouraged them to take feedback from the task force on how their submission could be improved and to apply again during a subsequent expression of interest.
With the government reluctant to commit to funding the desired setup, one of the three families eventually had to pull out of the home for financial reasons. Pfeiffer, her husband, and the other family tried to keep it going themselves, but the burden became too much, and they were forced to sell the home on September 29th, 2017.
In advance of the provincial election, Pfeiffer is calling on the government to reassess its approach to housing projects.