Let’s not forget to include housing for everyone in Delta.
That’s the message from the Delta Housing Be Mine Society as the new city council looks at ways of creating more housing in the city, options the society says should include residents with intellectual disabilities.
“What would happen my son Kurtis if I were to go to? I actually have five children, so hopefully one will pick up that support for him, but there are many out there who don’t have that security. What would happen to him is that he would be put, probably, in a home share or whatever is available for residential living. He would be moved out of his community where he has all his connections, where he works and volunteers and is an athlete,” said society president Shirley-Ann Reid.
Formed in 2011, the society is a place for families that are concerned about housing for their children who have developmental disabilities and/or mental illness. Members have researched models of housing and developer collaborations that have worked throughout Canada, including Semiahmoo House and Chorus Community House in Surrey. Society members have also created partnerships with B.C. Housing, Reach and Community Living B.C.
The need for appropriate housing for people with disabilities was included in a report for the city’s housing task force back in 2013, while a 2016 survey undertaken by the society found that almost 90 per cent of individuals with developmental disabilities in need of housing are living with their family or caregiver.
“Many adults with a developmental disability have lived in Delta since birth. Currently, many of these individuals work, volunteer and compete as athletes in Delta. The one basic component missing to continue to have a good life is a safe and supportive home in their familiar community,” the report explained.
A survey last year by the society found that at least 425 adults with intellectual disabilities living in Delta will need housing within the next 10 years.
Noting it can be devastating for someone with intellectual challenges to be forced to move out of their home community, Reid said inclusive options allows people to continue to be participating members of their community and have purpose, rather than living in the shadows.
Society vice-president Wendy Varley agreed, saying her 27-year-old son Michael, an accomplished athlete who is employed at Tsawwassen Mills, wants to remain in Delta.
“Michael’s goal is to live semi-independently in the community where he was born and raised. As parents of a son with disabilities, we constantly worry and ask ourselves, ‘Where will Michael live when we are not capable of taking care of ourselves and living in our own place?’
“There is a huge need for affordable housing in our community for seniors and people with intellectual disabilities. Presently there is no affordable housing for this sector of our community. If Michael is forced to live outside of his community, he will not have the social support system to succeed.”
It’s a similar story for Claire Allen, who says her daughter Becki is an active, contributing citizen in Delta who works part-time and is a Special Olympics athlete. Becki lives with her parents, but would like a home of her own.
The civic report found that as Delta’s population ages, impacting both the number of seniors needing support as well as adults with intellectual disabilities whose parents or caregivers may no longer be able adequately care for them, there will be an increased need for affordable, appropriate and suitable housing.
Noting individuals with intellectual disabilities face a number of barriers to accessing appropriate housing, the report states that such adults and low-income seniors often have similar housing needs and preferences, and there is potential to create intergenerational supported housing solutions that meet the needs of both groups.
It’s a similar message the society had last fall during a community forum in Ladner, where it was noted certain segments of the population are being excluded from Delta due to a lack of choices or the rising cost of housing.
Noting increasing options come with multiple benefits, the report states, “People living with intellectual disabilities have long been excluded from community life, in large part due to segregated housing. Inclusive housing options should acknowledge and reflect the desire of those living with intellectual disabilities to be active participants in their communities and should be designed to support genuine and meaningful inclusion.”
Commenting on the federal government’s National Housing Strategy, noting it’s not clear how it will play out at the local level, the society’s 2018 report suggests the success of any initiative is dependent on partnerships among the federal government, the province, the City of Delta, local non-profits and co-operative community housing providers and the private sector.
“The availability of land in Delta upon which to build new affordable and inclusive housing developments will remain a challenge for all involved,” the report states.