Manitoba adults with complex needs will have 2 new purpose-built places to call home

Some adults with intellectual disabilities will soon have a new place to call home, thanks to two new specially designed group homes intended to build community living and better meet their complex needs.

Group homes will serve as temporary community living arrangements for adults with intellectual disabilities

In this Associated Press file photo, a resident at a Florida group home for adults with various multiple developmental disabilities uses a touchscreen on her wheelchair to turn on and off lights. Two new purpose-built homes are planned in Manitoba for adults with challenging intellectual disabilities, the province says. (The Associated Press/Wilfredo Lee)

Some Manitoba adults with challenging intellectual disabilities will soon have a new home tailored to their needs, thanks to two new specially designed group homes intended to foster community living and better meet their complex needs.

Manitoba's Department of Families secured money from the province's Transformation Capital Fund to construct the proposed purpose-built facilities for high-need living situations.

The fund provides money for ideas from civil servants for innovative ways to improve services and make them more efficient.

Lisa Lacroix,  the department's acting director of adult disability programs, and her colleagues pitched an idea for two one-storey homes, each with four beds and special design considerations.

"A small percentage of individuals that we support can go into crisis and can become self-injurious, pose a risk to the disability support workers that are trying to support them, [and] can become very destructive to the property in the residence that they're living in," said Lisa Lacroix.

"We see this as a place that would meet those really unique needs."

A place to call home

The province assists about 6,500 people with intellectual disabilities, Lacroix said, which includes a small proportion of people with more challenging disabilities who could benefit from interim placement in safe, accommodating environments with handy access to support and behavioural planning mechanisms.

The group homes serve as temporary community living arrangements lasting several months or years for people over age 18 with intellectual disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorder, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and co-occurring mental health issues.

The ultimate goal is for the adults to eventually move into more typical residences.

How it works

Reinforced walls, doors and windows, as well as strengthened plumbing systems, may help reduce risks to clients and others staying in the peer-shared homes.

Residents will get their own separate bedrooms along with some private recreational space. The design of the buildings allow for more personal space than regular homes, Lacroix said.

Adults rooming with their family or in a typical residence often end up living alone during the most difficult times, she said.

She believes the homes could save the province $1.39 million a year, considering the average cost of staffing two or three workers to support likely candidates who currently live alone in a typical home.

Creating 'a true home'

"It's wonderful if you can get a great fit of high-needs people," said Amy Robinson, a mother of a 16-year-old boy with autism spectrum disorder.

"But matching can be tricky."

Asher Bonham, Robinson's son, is too young to be eligible for the proposed homes.

"Down the road, I'd love to see Asher [in a purpose-built community living situation], if there are peer groups that really work," Robinson said.

St. Amant, the non-profit that provides resources for Manitobans with developmental disabilities and autism, already offers similar support for up to three clients at a time, in addition to services for adults with intellectual disabilities or autism at 100 locations across the city.

St. Amant CEO John Leggat pointed out the importance of constructing homes with the needs of people in mind 'It's about creating a home for someone, and a true home,' he said. (CBC)

John Leggat, president and CEO of St. Amant, pointed out the importance of constructing homes with the needs of people in mind, paired with specifically trained staff. For example, wheelchair users require accessibility accommodations  whereas deaf and blind individuals need special means to communicate.

"It's about creating a home for someone, and a true home."

Manitoba's Department of Families still needs to decide on a non-profit service provider or two to run the homes, Lacroix said, but they're hoping for construction to begin in 2019 or 2020.

With files from Tessa Vanderhart