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Ontario home for people with intellectual disabilities forced to sell property to survive

For about 75 years, Community Living Toronto (CLT) has been providing services to help those with intellectual disabilities develop independence. The non-profit offers assistance with everything from employment and community activities to housing.

It differs case-by-case, but invariably, the waitlist for such housing in Ontario is long. Susan Silma and her family know that first-hand. They waited 36 years on a residential placement list to find a space for her brother, Robert. Things hit a crisis point when their mother, now in her 90s, had to move into a retirement home — leaving Robert, in his late 50s, desperate for a new home.

“As a family, we did everything we could, but we are not trained professionals,” Silma told Global News.

Susan Silma’s brother Robert waited 36 years for provincial housing. Susan Silma

She feels her brother would’ve developed into a more independent adult had he been given the opportunity to move into provincial housing earlier.

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“He did learn going to the TTC and using the TTC independently and that was a lot of repetition, a lot of work for him but he was very proud of being able to do that. He participated in Community Living Toronto programs and even some volunteering, but I absolutely think he would’ve had a chance to live a better, best life if you will, had he had a chance to be more independent.”

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Today, there is a waitlist of over 4,000 people trying to get into one of CLT’s group homes. The organization says that list will take even longer to clear now because it is running a deficit. CEO Brad Saunders blamed funding increases that haven’t kept pace with inflation.

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“Inflation has been 40, 50 per cent over the same period of time. To give you an idea, the last base increase we got was 2 per cent in 2018. Prior to that you have to go back to 2009.”

To stay afloat, CLT has had to pause hiring for some positions, and it’s sold three of its group homes because it could no longer operate and renovate them.

In a statement, the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services told Global News, “In 2023–24, we are investing approximately $3.4 billion in developmental services, an increase of more than $1 billion over 2017-2018. This investment will enable continuing support of people currently in service, and those who are high-risk and are entering service.”

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Community Living Ontario says that funding doesn’t address its base operating budget, things like heat, hydro, lights and food. It’s asking the province for a five-per cent increase to that budget and hoping to drum up public support with its campaign, “#5ToSurvive.” They’re also taking donations.

“We really have our hand out to the province saying now is the time to act,” said Saunders.

“Or we’re all going to be in a lot of trouble.”

&© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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