McRae toured a fourplex apartment house the ACL built in 2005 for some of the adults with developmental disabilities it supports.
“It allows people to have their own home,” explains Executive Director Cindy Mohr. “They furnish their own place, they do have a roommate that they do have a say in, and they cook their own meals with supervision and with help when needed, so they’re basically able to live independent lives but with the support that they need.”
Six people live at the fourplex at one time, with 24 hour supervision that’s intended to be the least intrusive option for those that only need a little supervision. After he got the grand tour, Minister McRae had nothing but praise for the innovative housing project and its residents.
“The fourplex is a great opportunity for individuals to live in a real neighbourhood environment. We don’t want to have an institutional environment like perhaps was done in the past,” he maintains. “It allows them to live in a very dignified, and, I think, homey environment, one that I think all of us would be comfortable living in.”
Part of McRae’s reason for the visit was to learn more about differences and challenges facing northern residents.
“Housing obviously is very expensive in this region for all residents, whether you have a disability or not. That’s a challenge people face,” he notes. “Also, finding employees who can work in the system. The oil and gas industry is obviously very attractive to some individuals and pays very high wages. The social service sector doesn’t pay those kinds of wages; that’s a challenge.”
To help people with disabilities manage some of those difficulties, McRae mention two different programs. The first is a $100,000 scholarship from Community Living B.C. and the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union available January 1, 2014.
“[It] will allow them up to $2,500 for job training or skills training to help them become more employable, and I’m hoping those dollars are award around the province of British Columbia,” he says. “If there’s an individual who’s needing some extra training to find a job, or working in a job and wants to be a better asset to his or her employer, it’s really important that they apply and have a chance to win these dollars.”
The second is an opportunity to increase the amount of earning exemptions for individuals receiving support from the province to $800 a month.
McRae also mentions plans for upcoming province-wide community consultations on issues faced by British Columbians living with a disability that will result in a report and summit next June.
“We want to hear from British Columbians how we can better serve persons with disabilities and this will culminate in a summit and also give us a blue print or map for where we’re going to take the next four years of government and support persons with disabilities, their families, and service providers.”
In addition to online submissions, the consultations will make it to 15 B.C. communities, but there’s no word at this point whether one will be north of Prince George.