A lot of families with children on the autism spectrum (or with another diverse ability), may believe that housing supports will be available to their loved ones once they become adults. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of housing resources for the neuro-diverse population.
Last year, some other parents and I got together to discuss housing resources in the Central Okanagan. There was a great turn-out and my kitchen was full of families wanting to learn more. We met three or four times until we lost traction for a couple of reasons: families wanted different things and it was hard to find a focal point. Then COVID hit and the discussions stopped. Despite the discussions ending, I still get a lot of families inquiring about housing. I wish more resources were available.
These are the types of housing that currently exist for adults with diverse abilities, according to the CLBC (Community Living BC) website:
Supported Living/Outreach Cluster There are two main types of supported living:
• “Outreach Support: in this option, a support person visits your home to give you support with daily living at certain times during the week. This could be one-on-one or in a group.
• Cluster Living: in this option, a support person provides support to you and a group of other people whom CLBC supports who live close to each other (often in the same apartment building). The support person usually lives close to you too (Community Living British Columbia, 2018).”
Shared Living (Home Sharing and Live-In Support)
• “Home Sharing: This is the most common type of shared living and involves you living in the shared living provider’s home.
Staffed Residential “People who choose this option generally need quite a bit of support with many areas of daily living. Staff who work in the home can help you with things like cooking, budgeting, personal care, recreation, and connecting to your community. Those who work in the home get to know you well and will support you to get involved in the home and the community in a way that is comfortable for you.
You may live with one or more other people in the home. You share some areas of the home with others who live there, but you have your own room that you can decorate as you like and where you can go when you need time to be by yourself (Community Living British Columbia, 2018).”
It should be noted that although these housing supports/types exist, it doesn’t mean that every individual who would like housing support will receive it. Like with many other supports, there are waitlists and limited funding. Also, many individuals on the autism spectrum may not qualify for CLBC’s Personal Support Initiatives (PSI) program as their adaptive functioning is too high.
What are the different types of housing—affordable housing, diversability housing, inclusive housing, home share, co-housing, cluster housing, staffed residential, and family governance model?
Affordable housing: not necessarily for people with diverse abilities, but for anyone in a low income demographic.
Diversability housing: for people that have a diversability, usually affordable and sometimes inclusive.
Inclusive housing: for a mix of people with diversabilities and neurotypical people, often affordable as well but doesn’t have to be. The person with the diversability has a choice as to what their housing looks like.
Home share: like a foster family, but for an adult. The individual with the diverse ability becomes part of the family and is fully integrated into the family dynamic.
Co-Housing: for a mix of different people, some with diversabilities, some neuro-typical, some empty nesters, some singles, some families, all age ranges and economic/income backgrounds. They will often share a common area (say a courtyard) and sometimes will get together for get-togethers, but most importantly, neighbours help neighbours.
Cluster Housing: when there are several housing units within the same building. Often the individuals have a shared dining room and community area, similar to a retirement residence. Cluster housing is only for people with diverse abilities in the building, so it may not be an exact representation of the community-at-large.
Staffed Residential: often called a group home. Usually, a house with 2 to 4 residents and 24/7 care. These homes are usually operated by an agency that has a contract with CLBC.
Family Governance Model: a group of families that get together to create an intentional and inclusive community for their loved ones with diverse abilities. This requires a lot of time commitment on the part of families and often a financial investment.
A new website and video about inclusive housing, what is it, how do you find it, how to find a roommate. For adults with diverse abilities. Important because housing is a topic with not a lot of resources and the government needs to come up with some more solutions.
Reach out to the provincial government and your local MLA.
Connect with other families that have similar goals for housing for their loved one(s).
BC Housing on Housing Assistance in BC
“Stable housing is a key factor in having good health. The Province of British Columbia offers supportive and subsidized housing, through the provincial government agency, BC Housing. Subsidized housing is also provided by non-profit societies and co-operative associations. Learn more about how to apply for co-op housing online: https://www.chf.bc.ca/find-co-op/
People who live in subsidized housing need to be able to independently maintain their personal health and well-being in a self-contained living unit. They must also fulfill tenancy obligations, including paying rent, caring for their unit, and maintaining appropriate relations with neighbours. Tenants pay rent based on their income (generally 30% of income), or if on income assistance, they pay a flat rate based on family size.
How are people chosen for subsidized housing?
In developments managed by BC Housing, priority is given to people with the greatest need. These include women and children fleeing abuse, people at risk of homelessness, people with health issues, including frail seniors and people with mental illnesses, physical disabilities, substance use issues and families. Learn more or apply online: https://www.bchousing.org/housing-assistance/rental-housing.
Supportive housing is subsidized housing managed by non-profit housing societies that provide ongoing supports and services to residents to help them live as independently as possible. To be eligible you must be a low-income adult, 19 years or older, who is homeless or at risk of homelessness and who requires support services to achieve a successful tenancy. Tenants pay rent for their units, with rates based on their income source. Learn more or apply online: https://www.bchousing.org/housingassistance/housing-with-support” (BC Housing, April 2021).
Written by Lisa Watson, Regional Coordinator for Interior BC