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Jen Powley: Province stalls home for disabled adults on Gottingen Street

Left to right, Barbara Horner and Jen Powley at a Province House press conference earlier this year about the lack of community living opportunities for people with disabilities. Photo Robert Devet

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Nova Scotia still has more than 1,000 people with severe disabilities in institutions and a wait list of more than 1,500 for group homes. 

That’s why after the 2019 Emerald Hall Human Rights decision affirmed that people with disabilities have the right to adequate care in the community; and after the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities criticized how Nova Scotia is doing on housing for the disabled, you would think that the government of Nova Scotia would jump at the chance to give people with severe physical disabilities a home within the community. 

That however doesn’t appear to be the case, and there has been no movement on allowing people with severe physical disabilities to live in the community.

See also: Nova Scotians with disabilities want community-based living supports now

This is so despite the Nova Scotia government ending the moratorium on the building of new group homes (though 300 group homes are needed, not just the eight announced);  and though the government has enough sense to put the Accessibility Directorate under the Department of Justice; and though the government has passed the Accessibility By Design Act committing the province to become fully accessible by 2030, 

At most, the province offers six hours of care per day. What the individual with a severe physical disability does for the other 18 hours is anyone’s guess. 

The other option is going into a long-term care facility. A nursing home bed costs individuals $110 a day or $40,150 a year — if the resident has the means. The government takes their pensions or disability income and returns to them $260 a month for personal spending.  However, the real fiscal cost of institutional care is greater than $40,000 a year per person. 

On February 28, 2019, EcoGreen Homes and I, a person who is quadriplegic due to progressive multiple sclerosis, presented a proposal to the Department of Community Services for a four-bedroom unit with shared-attendant care in a new mixed-use building on Gottingen Street. This unit would keep me and three other young adults out of a nursing home at a cost comparable with that of housing us in a long-term care facility. 

We still haven’t had an answer from the department on whether the developer can move ahead on the proposal. The developer has left the space on Gottingen Street untouched at great expense to himself. After our presentation, the developer was asked how long the province had to get back to him. He answered two months. We are now in our ninth.

We haven’t hand-picked the other people.  We had hoped the late Joanne Larade could be one of the residents. Larade was a disability rights activist with Muscular Dystrophy Canada, Independence Now and Empowered. She has passed away since the project was proposed. Larade joined the advocacy group No More Warehousing, convinced people with severe physical disabilities could together do something to fight for the dignity we deserve in housing.  Like other Nova Scotians, we deserve choice in where and with whom we live, as is stated in the UN’s Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities, which Canada signed in 2010.

See also: Joanne Larade, disability rights advocate, passes away

We are allowing the government the decision of which people, other than myself, should be given an opportunity to live in the community rather than on the outskirts. We are hoping that in the future no young people will be put in nursing homes and that 24/7 service will be available outside of a nursing home. 

We don’t believe keeping people under 60 in a nursing home, where most residents are at a different stage of their lives, is good for their mental health. Just because a 90-year-old needs physical assistance doesn’t mean they should be lumped together with a young person who needs the same level of care. 

The activities considered appropriate for the elderly are not necessarily appropriate for younger people. How would you like your bedtime, mealtime, meal choices, wake up time and visiting time decreed after you reach 18 years of age?  Yet the Nova Scotia government promotes this for people with severe physical disabilities. 

We want the Government of Nova Scotia to approve the proposal we presented in February. We want EcoGreen Homes to get the go-ahead. 

Jen Powley is a  tireless advocate for disability rights and housing for people with disabilities. She’s the author of the excellent memoir Just Jen.

See also: Activist Jen Powley receives 2019 James McGregor Stewart Award

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  1. I’m a c1 c2 incomplete Quad amputee cancer survivor and live in a barrier free unit yet have no access to shower and land Lord won’t allow me to go after the funding to make the unit work for me all I get everytime I bring it up is indoor heating indoor heating they’ll have to tear floor up…… Even though the answer is no they leave drain where it is but yet hear I sit day after day in my powerchair twiddling the one thumb I can and making music videos o n smule to pass the time. Access to accessible transportation need an massive over flow too! At the rate of the Nova Scotia Gov are going well never make the deadmark for being accessible by the date they gave. We deserve better treatment then what we get a unit like the one proposed on Gottingen street should be.impletmented in every town city etc within the province there lots of us to.fill em up…. Just think how you would feel if your freedom to do what you want when u want it was all of a.suddwn taking away from you Mr Premier….. I bet the money would of of a sudden magically appear….. Wouldn’t it??? So now is the time to act because eventually we will organize and start fighting even harder for the services we require and deserve …… My injury was within one of your high schools and I didn’t receive anything other than a life of pain and suffering so when are you going to take your fingers outta your back ends and start rolling with the times.


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