Strong Community Support Builds New Affordable Housing in PEI for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Young adults with autism spectrum disorders have affordable and accessible supported housing in Charlottetown with two apartments for independent living and three supported living units that opened in 2011. The Stars for Life Home and Resource Centre is the first home and resource centre for individuals with autism in Prince Edward Island.
“This is the culmination of a ten-year dream and a great deal of fundraising,” said Carolyn Bateman, President of the Stars for Life Foundation. “The housing and its comprehensive, innovative supports ensures inclusion for individuals with autism and provides the opportunity for them to lead fulfilling lives. The home will also offer reassurance to aging parents that their children with autism will be living happily and safely beyond their own lives.”
In 2002, the Stars for Life Foundation was formed to address gaps in services and programs for children with autism spectrum disorder in their community. The founding families also recognized that their children would require ongoing housing and supports beyond the life of their parents.
“We wanted to create more than just housing,” Bateman explained. “We needed a system for families and we needed to provide support beyond just a place to live. We also needed to keep it small, like a home within a home — ideally for three to five people — not something institutional.”
Constructed on the site of a former storage building, the new two-storey residence and resource centre has approximately 9,000 square feet of space on three levels. The location is 10 minutes away from downtown in a mixed-use area with bus service at the door to take tenants to work and volunteer activities in the community. Rents are set at financial assistance rates, which includes allowances for hydro, food and personal items. Tenants who are severely disabled receive funding support under a provincial program to cover day staffing.
The housing is tailored to serve individuals who can live fairly independently as well as those who need 24-hour care. There are two independent one-bedroom apartments with a separate entrance and three bachelor suites for high-needs individuals, plus common space. There is also a bedroom for the overnight caregiver, who acts as the “home parent” for the residents. Unique to Canada, this “home parent model” is based on one that is successfully employed in the U.S.
“The ‘home parent model’ offers more continuity for high needs individuals who don’t like the idea of different staff coming and going. It also works well for independent individuals who are part of our support program but don’t need staffing or overnight. It has the flexibility to meet their individual needs and help them fulfill their own goals,” said Bateman.
The project received $250,000 in combined federal and provincial funding through the Canada – Prince Edward Island Affordable Housing Initiative and $140,000 from Employment and Skills Development Canada’s Homelessness Partnership Strategy. The province donated the property, valued at $100,000, and provided $44,000 in funding for workers to finish the basement for office and activity space. The project also received Seed funding from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation for the development of a business plan and for related accounting and legal fees.
The project was built at cost by Maclean Construction. Other in kind support included free removal of the former storage building by Bulldog Demolition, free excavation of the site by Island Coastal, and the preparation of designs and architectural drawings at no charge by APM Group. In all, community fundraising and in kind support provided $600,000 to the project.