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Ontario Developmental Services Housing Task Force Update

This update from the Ontario Housing Task Force is a reprint from the Community Living Ontario Newsletter 

Written by 
Evelyn Senyi

Hoping to encourage people to share their ideas on how to remove barriers, improve opportunities and support innovative and inclusive housing options for adults who have an intellectual disability, Minister of Community and Social Services Dr. Helena Jaczek hosted a housing forum earlier this week.Held in Chatham, Ottawa, Orangeville, Thunder Bay, Toronto and online, Wednesday’s (November 30th) forum built on the work of the Ontario Developmental Services Housing Task Force.The day opened with remarks from Minister Jaczek and Minister of Housing Chris Ballard.

“There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to housing,” said Jaczek. “To identify truly innovative solutions, we need to work together to create sustainable options for individuals to support greater social inclusion of people with developmental disabilities.” She stressed the need to continue to increase efforts to ensure that people who have an intellectual disability have access to safe, inclusive and affordable housing.

“We have so many people waiting for residential supports that the waiting list keeps getting longer and longer.”

Dr. Jaczek also made it clear that her ministry does not support institutional settings.

“That is absolutely not our government’s direction. We believe totally in inclusion.”

Minister Jaczek also mentioned the recent Ombudsman’s report and conceded that her ministry is not working as well with its partners as it could be.

“This was certainly a wakeup call to all of us that we have a lot more to do to ensure that the right services reach each individual to the very best of our ability.”

The Minister closed her comments on a hopeful note, stating that she is “committed to transforming Developmental Services into a more accessible, fair and sustainable system of supports,” and working together “to ensure that no one is left behind.”

A panel of speakers followed the Minister’s remarks. Panelists included Chief Executive Officer of Mills Community Support Corporation Mike Coxon, President of Scarborough Residential Alternatives and Housing Task Force Member Bonnie Heath, Executive Director of Community Living St. Marys and Area Marg McLean, and President and Chief Executive Officer of Reena Bryan Keshen. The panel was facilitated by Ministry representatives Barb Simmons and Christine Kuepfer.

The panelists shared their lived experiences of the housing challenges faced by people who have an intellectual disability and their families. All of the speakers stressed the importance of inclusive, community living. McLean used her organization’s six-unit housing project as an example of how people who have an intellectual disability can be successfully included in the community. Some of the units are rented out to the public.

One of the key topics discussed was intentional communities. Keshen spoke at length about his organization’s community development project that focuses on a 60-unit housing project located on a campus.

“The housing project that we’ve developed is on a campus, a Jewish community campus, and because of the relationship to the community, we were able to get into that campus situation,” said Keshen.

For some, the idea of intentional communities is synonymous with segregated communities. However, McLean offered a different take on the term.

“It’s so important for us to think about mixed housing, what we bring to it as neighbours and as other community members. Intentional community is not about one particular label being attached to someone, it’s about offering a mixture of economic backgrounds, of faith-based backgrounds, of ages. It’s a mixture of people. And it’s about people coming together to share a purpose and a shared way of life.”

She went on to state that intentional communities offer gathering places and areas for facilitation.

“Intentional community, to me, is the way that we need to be thinking about things,” added McLean.

If you missed Wednesday’s forum, you can watch the recording online by clicking here.

Comments collected from the forum will be shared with the public in January of 2017.

Evelyn Senyi, Community Living Ontario

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