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empty house

Striking a Balance

Balancing safety and equality has long been a double edged sword faced by direct support agencies.  It’s a tricky, tricky business to see that both happen.

With people clamouring to get out of the remaining Canadian institutions and out into the community there’s a lot of pressure to buy new homes. In 2011, group homes in Manitoba were legally created commercial residences on par with strip malls and nursing homes. The newer, more restrictive building code means agencies must scrounge for funding to make the necessary renovations to simple residential homes.  They must add things like strobe lights, sprinklers, louder alarms, special dry wall and fire panels before move in day. The extra costs can run as high as $100,000 per house!

Recently I tripped over this CBC article discussing empty houses caused by the change in legislation.  Families and people supported are struggling to muster the patience for the increased funding requirements and subsequent delays.

empty house
Photo from CBC

“The pendulum has swung too far when they forget that it’s a home,” said Susan McKelvie, whose twenty-nine year old son Aaron lives with an intellectual disability and is currently wait-listed to move out. His house is awaiting the funds to make the up-to-code renovations. It has also been pointed out that many of these changes create a hospital feel, rather than a home. The law is creating mini institutions that the community living movement is working so hard to stop.

It’s a catch 22 for legislators.  Being legally liable for another human being creates huge motivation for responsible stewardship. That’s a great, good thing. I can’t demonize the government for wanting people to be safe. On the other hand empty houses and full institutions make my blood boil. In my opinion, the people on high have stumbled too far towards the safety end of the spectrum and lost sight of the purpose of community living.

If we’re not working towards an inclusive society what’s the point of moving people out of the institutions? A home is the ultimate outward and societal physical expression of self. By marking it apart due to factors of disability we exclude people in a fundamental way. A person’s home should connect them to their community, not promote a divide that it was ironically meant to heal.

What do you think? How has your organization dealt with this? Anybody out there waiting on house renovations?


Inclusion Blog Post

By Inclusion Blog Post

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  1. As a result of much advocacy and helped along by the media attention, the government has removed the requirements that were causing most of the issues effective on Friday of last week. This is only effective for one year after which new code will have been developed (hopefully after consultation with people with disabilities)