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Accessible Housing a Right: PUSH

KAREN McKINLEY
08/26/2010

A human rights group for people with disabilities is calling for an inquiry if their questions about funding for accessible housing are not answered.

Ron Ross, president of Persons United for Self Help (PUSH), said there are more than 300 people in Thunder Bay who have been waiting for up to 10 years for accessible, supportive community housing and home support care. Many of them, ranging in age from 16 to 65, have been forced to live with relatives,
in institutions or in what he called “inadequate” housing.

There are at least another 100 people living in the region who are also waiting for housing.

“We are deeming it a crisis wait list because that is an awful long time to wait for care,” Ross said at a news conference Wednesday.

He said the problem rests with the provincial government and North West Local Health Integration Network who are supposed to deliver service to people with disabilities. Ross said he‘s been told most of the money is being used to build more institutions and for seniors with physical disabilities.

Ross said there isn‘t enough money being invested in community-based support care to keep residents in their own homes, or allow them to live on their own.

Funding should be available for all, he added, be they young adult or senior.

“I think it‘s discrimination to have funding for one group (seniors) and not the other.”

Because of the long waits and what Ross called “unsatisfactory” answers from the government and LHIN, he said he has sent a letter to the Ontario Ombudsman requesting a public inquiry.

“This is becoming a human rights issue now, because we have the Access for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and these long wait times and people being forced to live where they don‘t want to is a rights issue,” Ross said. “The majority of seniors and persons with disabilities want to live at home.‘‘

LHIN‘s purpose is to connect with the community to determine what the greatest health care issues are, said Susan Pilatzke, acting supervisor for planning,
integration and community engagement.

She said the LHIN has been speaking with PUSH and is aware of its concerns.

“We are about to embark on a study over supportive care and housing to determine what demands are now and what they might be in the future,” she said.

Pilatzke pointed out LHIN has given targeted funding to support care and advocacy groups like HAGI and BISNO, and they are providing funding for the new Centre of Excellence for supportive care units.

She said the process can seem slow and funding demands are high, but implementation has to come in steps to ensure all health care needs in the region are met.

Lawrence Chumway-Cox, a 23-year-old from Atikokan, is confined to a wheelchair and has been on a waiting list for three years for a supported service living unit so he can go to college. He received notice from PUSH on Wednesday that there will be an apartment available for him in September.

While he said he was happy to get a home of his own, he added that he was incensed that he had to wait three years.

“I‘ve lived at home. There‘s not many services where I live. My parents are getting older and they are the only ones that could care for me,” Chumway-Cox
said.

“I don‘t expect my parents and sister to care for me foreve,r and waiting that long was stressful.

“Three years just to wait for a place to live is ridiculous,‘‘ he said. “I couldn‘t go to school or do anything.”

Reproduced from http://www.chroniclejournal.com/stories_local.php?id=289648