CanadaFamily seeks affordable home for Down syndrome daughter
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Stacy Bebbington loves living with her mom and dad in their Amherstburg, Ontario, home.
Her parents, Lois and Greg, love having their 38-year-old daughter with them as well.
Stacy has Down syndrome. She has a close relationship with her support worker who has been with her for 15 years.
She attends a nearby day support program run by Community Living where she gets to read, socialize with friends and go to lunch every Thursday.
Her parents know that as they age, life will change for Stacy and they’ve been trying for the last few years to plan out next steps.
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Since Lois retired as a nurse with the Canadian Cancer Society in 2016, she’s devoted a lot of her free time to finding an affordable housing option for Stacy in the same community so she can continue having the same support worker and attend the same day program with her friends.
It has been a journey fraught with limitations, long wait lists and road blocks.
So Lois and Greg have organized a housing information session Tuesday at 7 p.m. in an upstairs community room at the Libro Centre for other families of adults with disabilities.
“We’re trying to be proactive,” said 68-year-old Lois. “The government seems like they want families like us to come up with our own innovative solutions.”
Ideally, they’d love to connect with a couple of families and collaborate on finances and supports to build or buy a suitable house for two to three adults like Stacy.
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Lois said Stacy has been on a supportive housing wait list for many years.
“They don’t have that many group homes and the ones they have are full,” Lois said. “And there’s no government funding to build more.”
Stacy receives funding from the Ontario Disability Support Program for living expenses and she gets help from support workers through Passport Funding.
Lois has found that some financial institutions won’t allow a person whose sole income is ODSP to hold a mortgage and Passport funding cannot be used toward rent or a mortgage.
There is a government housing program to assist those with low incomes in purchasing a house but the maximum allowed is $225,000.
“What can you buy for that amount of money with today’s prices,” Lois asks. “That might have been OK five years ago but not now.”
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Lois has looked into a number of other programs available through Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the Windsor-Essex Brokerage which works in conjunction with the Ministry of Community and Social Services and Development Services Ontario.
A DSO housing navigator and a manager for Community Living Essex County will be on hand for Tuesday’s meeting, as will Amherstburg Coun. Don McArthur.
McArthur first met the Bebbingtons during last year’s election campaign when he knocked on their door.
Lois reached out to him about organizing a meeting.
“I thought it was the most admirable thing in the world,” McArthur said. “Here she is printing flyers and arranging a meeting.”
A report that went to Amherstburg council this past April showed there are 864 families in the local community looking for affordable housing.
Overall, statistics put the need at 5,467 people on a wait list for affordable housing across Windsor-Essex.
The wait list for a single person averages eight to 10 years.
The wait list for supportive affordable housing can easily double in length.
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“It’s creating a crisis for a number of families. And I think families are feeling quite hopeless,” Karen Bolger, the executive director for Community Living Essex County told The Star earlier this year.
The Bebbingtons are trying to prepare for the future before a “crisis” arises and they’re unable to care for Stacy for health reasons.
“It takes her a long time to get used to change,” Lois said. “We want to transition her slowly and be around to help her do it.”
Their fear is that after they’re gone, Stacy will be placed in a long-term care facility.
“That’s what happens to these people if they don’t have anywhere to go,” Lois said. “They end up in a nursing home. Someone with special needs at 40 years old should be going to day support programs and having a life.”
It’s a common fear according to Community Living’s Adriana McVicker.
“We have aged parents well into their 90s still going to their grave not knowing what is going to happen to their son or daughter,” McVicker said. “It’s very scary. We have kids in their 20s who end up in long term care and that’s just not good enough.”
According to the Ministry of Community and Social Services approximately 18,200 adults with developmental disabilities were waiting for residential services as of the end of 2018.
“To note, there is no first come, first served system for developmental services and supports. Those persons who are determined to be most at risk are prioritized for available resources,” said Ministry spokesperson Kristen Tedesco.
In Amherstburg, council has asked administration to look into the need for affordable housing and supportive housing and to develop strategies and solutions including allowing ‘granny suites’ or ‘secondary suites’ in neighbourhood homes.
Anyone interested in attending Tuesday’s meeting is asked to RSVP by phone or text to Lois at 519-995-6136.
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