The It’s Our Home project started with a group of parents with adult children who have Autism Spectrum Disorders ( ASD ) expressing concerning about the lack of appropriate and affordable housing options for their adult children. Current resources available in the Province of Ontario assist children with ASD under the age of 18 children and are in place to allow families an opportunity to access a broad range of supports and services that include day programming, residential support and in home support. This allows the children to receive proper supervision, education, living supports, and where needed respite for families, full residential care, from a variety of agencies and provincially supported programs. All these programs and supports are critical to the success of the parents, the family and specifically the child living with ASD.  Most of the supports end, however, when the children turn 18 and very little is available to families beyond that. For some, it means one parent may have to leave the workforce or seek daycare support.
 
ASD includes autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and a spectrum of associated challenges in the areas of behaviour, communication and social interaction that impact people differently and with varying degrees of severity. It is a complex developmental disorder that affects function of the brain. As adults, some require continual care and support, some just regular supervision and life skill support and others lead incredibly successful lives independently, marrying and having children. In the later group, many have no intellectual impairment, are in the work place able to maintain a job and live without supervision or support. Some individuals however do have difficulty accessing appropriate rental housing as they are sometimes in need of assistance with planning, organization and budgeting.  In some cases some individuals do not have effective communication skills, lack a rental history or cannot produce the appropriate or needed information.  As a result, they often experience discrimination when seeking living accommodations.
 
In many cities in Canada, rental projects that target this group have been built and operate successfully. Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa all have apartment projects that are designed to assist adults with ASD to live independently. The buildings provide standard apartments managed by a supportive, usually not-for-profit, landlord and create good quality
accommodations that are affordable for the limited incomes of many of the residents. The tenants have the opportunity for socialization and supporting one another and in many of the buildings, day programming can be provided to enhance life skills, provide counseling and other supports.
 
As a result of a coordinated effort, a group of London parents formed a committee in the Fall of 2011 and since that time have been planning for a small project, 12 to 16 units, in London. In October, 2011, the group retained Devonshire Consulting ( Greg Playford ) of London to assist with site selection, planning and funding. A number of possible sites were reviewed and a suitable infill site in east London was identified. The site does require re-zoning to allow for multi-family uses. As the plan is consistent with the infill and intensification policies of the City of London Official Plan, support has been expressed by planning officials and an application for re-zoning will be made in January, 2013. The group applied for and was awarded CMHC Seed Funding in the Fall of 2012 and the London firm of NSA Architects and Architect John Nicholson were retained to design an appropriate project. Consistent with the priorities of the City of London Affordable Housing Strategy, they are looking at self-contained, one bedroom units.
 
There are more than 50,000 adults with ASD living in Ontario.  A paper issued by Autism Ontario in December 2009 called “Autism Ontario & Ontario Partnership for Adults with Asperger’s and Autism Comments to the Minister of Municipal Affairs & Housing Ontario’s Long Term Affordable Housing Strategy” (copy attached)  identifies that:
 
“Individuals with ASD need affordable and supportive housing. Given the wide range of needs and capabilities of individuals on the autism spectrum, creative, innovative, and collaborative approaches to housing are necessary. Developing an appropriate affordable housing program recognizes the value such individuals bring to the community, and provides them the opportunity to live, not just exist.”
 
The Paper further identified that significant Housing Challenges for Individuals with ASD exist.
 
Although their symptoms and characteristics change over time, the approximately 50,000 adults with ASD in Ontario need a range of supports for their whole lives. Housing is an important part of that support structure, and one that is particularly troubling for aging parents and overly stressed families. For many individuals with ASD, the only thing standing between them and homelessness is their family. However, families are not always able to safely cope with the behavioural challenges of their loved ones.
 
For most adults with ASD, housing options are scarce. Supportive housing options for adults with developmental disabilities may be an option for individuals more severely affected by ASD, although not for those who are less affected. However, the lengthy waiting lists put additional pressures on families. Some individuals with ASD receive crisis housing, although this solution can raise more problems than it solves, given the great difficulties individuals with ASD have when dealing with change and uncertainty.
 
More able individuals with ASD either do not qualify for, or would not benefit from, conventional supportive housing arrangements. Housing options for these individuals are scarce, leaving them struggling to contribute to their community and achieve a reasonable quality of life independent from their families.
 
Adults with ASD often rely on ODSP for their daily living costs. However, ODSP does not cover the cost of market value housing, in most communities covering only the costs associated with shared or social housing. For individuals who have severe difficulties living with others, particularly others who do not share their interests or experiences, this limitation poses a severe hardship. Housing subsidy programs that might offer a solution are under-funded, with lengthy waiting lists.
(As Per: Autism Ontario & Ontario Partnership for Adults with Asperger’s and Autism Comments to the Minister of Municipal Affairs & Housing Ontario’s Long Term Affordable Housing Strategy)
 
Our goal is to ensure that the needs of all individuals across the Autism Spectrum are addressed.  We believe that this can be achieved by an innovative and collaborative approach in partnership with community agencies, but in particular with Fanshawe College and its various departments.


509 Commissoners Rd. West,Suite 301, London, Ont N6J 1Y5 - itsourhome@yahoo.ca