Stacey shares a smile with her mother Beryl while moving into her new home at the inclusive Chorus Apartments.
Paddi and Beryl are mothers and friends whose daughters both lived at home for over 30 years and recently moved into their own apartments.
This is one of the biggest transitions for parents; and Paddi and Beryl, just like any mom, wanted to make sure their daughters are safe, happy, make long lasting relationships and are part of the community. Finding inclusive housing was a paramount concern.
Fortunately because of the vision of families, community partners, Semiahmoo House Society and partnerships between the governments of Canada and B.C., their daughters are living independently in their own homes at Chorus Apartments. This inclusive and affordable rental housing complex was purpose built for people with low to moderate incomes and people with disabilities. Twenty of the 71 new units are homes for individuals with developmental disabilities.
Now that Paddi and Beryl’s daughters Michaela and Stacey are a month into living on their own we sat down with them to talk about what makes a home inclusive.
Inclusive homes respect peoples’ preferences
Paddi: It all began 13 years ago. I was on the Board of Directors for Semiahmoo House Society and they had a vision of creating an inclusive housing option for our folks. So they gathered parents and their children and staff together to brainstorm ideas on how to make it happen. Our children were always involved in the planning; their wants and desires and needs were listened to and incorporated. That is what makes it truly inclusive – it was the voice of the people who were going to live there and their families that were first and foremost. They had to prepare their life plans, they identified their strengths and their weaknesses and where the support would be needed. They worked so hard and as they worked you could see more and more that this was a possibility, it could really happen.
Beryl: I’ll never forget my very first meeting with Semiahmoo House. It was with the staff and parents. We were all there discussing our kids and at that time Paul Wheeler was the Executive Director and he was incredible. He spoke about his vision of an apartment building behind Semiahmoo House for our folks to live and be part of the community. When I heard him speak I thought, ‘wow, what an inclusive approach.’ I remember going home and telling my husband – ‘this is where we need to be.’
Proximity to community resources and friends
Beryl: The location is great. Across the street you have Safeway, London Drugs, restaurants and public transit. Stacey goes to Semiahmoo House every day to participate in the catering program and evening programs: movie night, game night and rec and leisure programs. They have friends and neighbours who can support them, they visit back and forth – it does my heart good to see them happy, having movie nights with each other and being successful together. Their friendships are stronger with the independence they are given. They feel safe and they are happy and you could never ask for anything more.
Paddi: Yes, the location is fantastic and Semiahmoo staff have access to the building and are like a family to them. They are amazing and they genuinely want these guys to succeed. It helps to know that they are well looked after, they make sure they are home at night and they keep an eye on things.
Stress about letting go
Paddi: Before Michaela moved we were a little bit anxious but we knew we had to do this now as we are getting older, while my husband and I were both still able to make sure the right things were in place and that Michaela could live a life without us. So yes, we were a bit anxious but once she moved in we saw the support she was getting and that she didn’t really need us anymore. She has all her friends around her, she’s closer to work and she loves being independent. It’s been an easier transition than I thought it would be, for all of us.
Beryl: Stacey and I are very close. We have had our ups and downs with her always wanting to be independent and I just couldn’t let her have as much freedom as she wanted. But now, with her own apartment she is getting that freedom – she has the independence she wants with the safety that both her and I need. Growing up, Stacey loved hearing my stories about my first apartment and hanging out with my friends and she always wanted that for her. Here she is, living in her own apartment with her best friend Alexa next door and it’s wonderful. She now has her own stories.
Nothing is impossible
Beryl: There is that old cliché that nothing is impossible. When our guys grow up you have hopes and dreams for them just like any other family does for their children, and particularly that piece about moving out of the house. You are not sure if that can ever happen, and it has. Semiahmoo House has helped make that possible for so many families – they have made it possible for them to live independently, to be out there but with the support they need to succeed. I think that sometimes we are afraid and want to protect our children, which is natural, but I think given the right circumstance, like this inclusive housing project, it’s possible.
Paddi: I agree, you have to believe it’s possible and you have to let them do it, you have to let them break away and find themselves. Even though it’s hard to let them go and give them independence you have to let them experience it. They gain so much from it – if you let them break away. Just knowing that Michaela is okay if anything happened to us tomorrow gives you so much relief; you don’t worry as much anymore. That daily worry is gone.
CLBC partners with the BCNPHA conference to offer inclusive housing sessions on November 20-23
CLBC is working with many partners to build awareness about inclusive housing. It is sponsoring a new stream of sessions for housing providers, developers, community planners and interested individuals and families at the BC Non-Profit Housing Association’s Housing Central Conference.
To learn more, please visit the conference website here.
CLBC brought together self-advocates, family members, community council members, service providers, BC Housing, and community groups such as BC Non Profit Housing Association, Inclusion BC and Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network) last March to talk about what makes housing inclusive. The report about the forum and a framework for moving forward can be found here.