Surrey City council’s rejection of the Harmony Housing project illuminated an undeniable truth, discrimination comes in many forms. They have approved projects geared towards first time home buyers, young families and those whose incomes are commensurate with high condo price tags but couldn’t approve a project designed to assist those with special needs in our city. I believe ageism and nimbyism also played a role in their decision to reject this proposal.
There are babies born with various health challenges, children in school with special needs, thousands of people who identify as a person with a disability, and a rapidly growing seniors population so you would hope our council would be more forward thinking. Many people don’t understand the plight of families and individuals who need places like Harmony. After attending the Family Support Institute of BC workshops I became more informed.
Imagine for a moment that your child is now entering adulthood, finishing their education and they want to find work or maybe move out on their own. What if your young adult has physical, psychological or additional special needs and wants those same opportunities and independence? Where do they go? Despite their relatively low income and higher needs, you try to find a place that is a safe and an accessible living environment with transit and services nearby. You also consider additional care, equipment and adaptations necessary. The goal is for them to be happy, near family, meet people and to thrive.
Now, imagine that despite your best efforts you can’t find a place that meets their needs. Life management becomes more complex and you know that your child will likely outlive you. You realize your declining capabilities, current home, or financial situation is making it increasingly difficult to take care of this adult and nobody you know can provide them with a home. It wasn’t that they couldn’t live on their own, they just needed a little extra help and options.
Are we really an inclusive society? There are thousands of people of varying abilities and ages desperate to not just find a place to live but to make a home. Very few existing homes and housing developments truly meet the needs of persons with disabilities or consider seniors who are trying to live on a fixed pension. In my line of work I have seen people’s lives change dramatically through loss of employment, illness, accident or disability. If council is unable to consider citizens, as described above, then selfishly consider this: You and yours could one day face a very different life picture and nothing will be there for you, either.
J. Chandler, South Surrey