NOTE: The following is a feature story about small option homes for people with disabilities.
Trevor had a busy Christmas with a long visit from his dad, Barry, and opening his presents.
Trevor is one of many Nova Scotians with disabilities, who successfully moved into a small option home – and he and his dad couldn’t be happier.
The small option home where he lives in Lower Sackville is the model for how Nova Scotians with disabilities can be supported to live as part of their communities.
“Here, it is what a small option should be – a home – with more one-on-one interaction with the staff and the residents,” said Barry, delighted to talk about his son’s story.
Just before Trevor received a placement at his current house, he lived in a unit with about six other residents as part of the Community Transition Program. Prior to that, for about 14 years, he lived at a larger facility with many more residents.
“They took good care of him, but I found, in a lot of cases, he would spend a considerable amount of time in his room,” said Barry. “I don’t think he had a whole lot of interaction with people over there. They didn’t have as much one-on-one time with staff.”
In describing Trevor’s transition, Barry said, “There’s no comparison, really. Here, Trevor gets to choose when he wants to eat breakfast.”
At the small option home, Trevor has two roommates, one of whom he has known for decades. They don’t talk to each other much, but when his roommates are gone, he’ll ask about them constantly. The house looks like any other house. It has a large, open, common area with a kitchen, dining room, and living room. Each resident has his own room, and there is a separate recreation room.
“It really feels like a home here,” said Yvette, who works with Trevor regularly. “As a person that comes in to help everybody every day, the layout of this place is fantastic. For keeping an eye on the client it’s excellent. If I’m cooking supper, they’re in the living room, or the rec room, or their rooms – it’s an easy go.”
Yvette says that the small option home model is ideal for getting clients out and into the community. “Trevor likes the bus. We’ll go into the Halifax Shopping Centre and we’ll pop in for a pop and a doughnut. We keep taking him out, and now he’s used to the crowds. He’s much better at it now.”
Four people work in support roles at Trevor’s home. Yvette explained that the workers don’t just support the clients, they also support each other. “No two people are the same. You just work with them. This house has been fun, and I love the different houses that I work in.”
Barry agreed. “I find that in this line of work, the people are special. They really are. They look after these lads and ladies. It’s fantastic, and they look after him well, very well. I’m quite sure there are more people who would thrive in a home setting.”
Community Services is working with the province’s eight Adult Residential Centres and Regional Rehabilitation Centres to determine the best way to transition people like Trevor and his roommates into community living. Most members of the ARC-RRC Association (Adult Residential Centres and Regional Rehabilitation Centres) already operate community homes. The Breton Ability Centre in Sydney recently expanded their learning and development centre to focus more on preparing their program participants to move into the community.
“We’re moving toward community-based homes because Nova Scotians with disabilities and their families want to be supported to live active lives as part of their communities,” said Joe Rudderham, executive director of the Disability Support Program at Community Services. “That’s why we’re working with the ARC-RRC Association, staff, and families to fully understand what we need to have in place as we move away from the larger residential settings and transition people slowly and safely into the community. We need to listen to our program participants and their families as we progress through planning eventual program closures.”
The Disability Support Program is transforming to better serve Nova Scotians who need support. It will take time, but Trevor’s story is what success will look like.
For Trevor, living in a small option home has given him the opportunity to live the way he wants to.
“He has a favourite chair. Sometimes he goes in the other room and puts on his favourite movie, Grease. He had a copy of it way back in the day on VHS, but apparently, they wore it right out,” Barry said. “Staff will take him out for van rides, and that always includes a stop at Tim Hortons for a Pepsi and a Boston cream doughnut. Thursdays, he goes into Halifax for swims. He doesn’t swim, but he plays in the water. Saturdays, they go over to Alexandra’s Pizza for supper.
“One day Trevor and I walked down to the bus depot and we scooted in to Spring Garden Road. We ended up walking down to the Tim Hortons at Young and Kempt because the Timmy’s on Spring Garden was full. It was quite a little hike, but we had a nice lunch, and then we made our way home. It was an adventure.”