A father who was so desperate to find a roommate for his adult son with disabilities that he turned to Kijiji has finally had some luck, thanks to a non-profit that helps Nova Scotians avoid the provincial wait-list for housing.
Last November, Jeff Pearson posted an ad on the online classified site hoping to find a roommate for his son, now 23, who has an intellectual disability. He said he received some responses, "but they were not what I was looking for."
Eventually he stumbled across the website for a non-profit co-operative called Support Services Group Co-operative Limited (SSG), based in Dartmouth, N.S., which provides support for people with a variety of disabilities. The organization helped Pearson's son find an apartment and a roommate.
For a fee of $338 a month, SSG also provides a supervisor to help ensure Pearson's son gets the support he needs. "It was quite a relief" to find the organization, Pearson said.
"Eventually, I'm not going to be here to take care of him," he said. "I would not want him to be 45 or 50 years old and then, all of a sudden, have to start learning how to live on his own."
Pearson asked CBC not to name his son for privacy reasons.
Provincial wait-list too long
He said he could have placed his son on the province's wait-list for supportive housing, but he was told it would take up to eight years to find a placement.
Pearson said his son has to start learning how to live independently while he can still afford to support him.
Pearson also said he wasn't sure he could trust the eight-year estimate from the Department of Community Services, as he'd heard from parents who had waited longer.
He still gets a monthly cheque from the province to help cover his son's costs.
According to a Community Services spokesperson Heather Fairbairn, there are currently 1,484 people on the waiting listing for the Disability Support Program. She said individual wait-times vary based on a client's specific needs.
"We recognize that being on a wait-list is difficult," Fairbairn said, adding that the province is planning to invest in day programming, an independent living program and new community-based small option homes.
New consulting service
The executive director of SSG, Wanda O'Neil, said the organization, which started in 1991, decided to find a way to help people like Pearson — who aren't on the province's wait-list for housing — when she realized "there are so many families out there looking for something, and they need it now."
That's why SSG started its consulting service in April 2016, she said.
As part of that program, families pay upfront to get a supervisor who helps clients find housing and employment, as well as co-ordinates support workers who can help with transportation or preparing meals.
Of the 140 members in the co-op, four are currently using the consulting service.
O'Neil said there is no cap on how many families they can help — and the need is great.
She estimated she talks to five or six people a week who are trying to find supportive housing for a loved one.
"They're aging and their children are aging," O'Neil said. "They don't even know where to begin."