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Ontario ACORN and the Disability Community - ACORN Canada

Ontario ACORN and the Disability Community

I am an Ontario ACORN member and a member of the disability community. I live in a city, but it is still considered a rural area of Ontario.

ACORN members, of course, know about the housing crisis. But do all our members know about the growing institutionalization crisis in Ontario and its connection to the housing crisis and lack of justice in supportive housing?

What is supportive housing? Sometimes also known as subsidized supportive living units, supportive living is what it sounds like: you live somewhere, and someone comes in to assist with daily living, cooking, cleaning, bathing and more.

This concept was meant to break free from the institutions of the past for the disability community, help us develop skills, and become more involved in the community overall. Now, you transition to accessible/affordable housing and continue receiving independent living support, or apply for the Ontario Direct Funding Program, become a self-manager, and hire your staff.

Governments haven’t kept up on housing demand at all, and they have ignored the fact that people in the disability community can and want to direct our care/lives.

Rather than expanding programs such as Direct Funding or building a more accessible Canada, governments build institutions like today’s nursing and group homes, which mostly chip away at the system. As a result, we see fewer stakeholder seats at the table.

We, as disabled people, used to be involved in hiring and training. But, once we lose a seat at the table, we lost our rights, autonomy, dignity, and chance to develop social skills and individuality.

The disability community, organizations, and services must be at the head of the table when hiring, firing, training, and other policies and procedures are discussed – the Accessibility for
Ontario with Disability Act and the Ontario Human Rights Code are at the top of mind, not to mention a client/resident/community bill of rights.

Instead, we have a system that is set up where those running the system are not capable and do not wish to understand disability culture and its histories within that.

These homes are allowed to have an individual complaint process. So, if you complain to management about your rights as a tenant or client, you also complain to the same governmental
body, which can lead to the threat of losing one service and your home and community.

Management and their community must have a third-party panel to avoid community members facing the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board, the Health Service Apply and Review Board, or other Ontario Tribunals when simply exercising their rights.

These homes are funded separately by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and Community and Social Services.

During the pandemic, the Ontario government launched a review into Long-Term Care Homes. My peers and I were disappointed when we realized that supportive living homes and group homes funded by the ministry would not be included in the review.

I have personal experiences and conversations with peers. There seems to be a pattern of gaslighting, threats with comments like, “If you’re not happy here, you can move” or “You seem so angry.” One of my peers was sent to a nursing home after speaking up. He was told he was a bad influence on their vulnerable population. We are often not treated as adults who can make our decisions.

Supportive living also faces another crisis feeding into the systemic institutional system. So, because of the broken system and its lack of beds in hospitals and nursing homes, we have people being placed in inappropriate situations.

We need to investigate the supportive housing system through a collaborative effort of both ministries. We also need a space where the disability community can share their experiences without fear of reprisal. We also need a streamlined province-wide complaint process with proper accountability for organizations that violate one’s rights.

Ontario ACORN has an online action, Justice for Supportive Housing. Please share and consider signing, with everyone’s help we can take this action to the next step.

Thank you for your time.

Online action:

Written By Stephen C. Barns, Ontario ACORN Member

Copyright 2024