A 25-year wait list for supported living housing was unthinkable for Sandy and Darrin Murphy.
Their son Joshua is only 12 years old so the Kingsville couple decided to start a house-building charity now so people with an intellectual disability like Joshua will have a chance to move out of their parents’ home.
“If there’s not a place, we need to start building these places,” Sandy Murphy said Wednesday.
Parents of children with exceptional needs are at a loss of what to do, she said. Sometimes young adults with intellectual disabilities end up in nursing homes because there’s no where else for them if their parents are unable to care for them.
“There is a housing shortage in Essex County for people with exceptional needs,” she said.
Sandy’s husband Darrin works in the construction industry. The couple decided to start a charity to build accessible houses and rent them to an agency or another charity to provide the care needed.
They called it Murchadha House for Those with Exceptional Needs using the Gaelic word for Murphy and they’re looking for community support.
The donated land to the charity will hold an April 27 groundbreaking ceremony for the first house for four youth in Cottam. Construction is expected to begin in May on the $550,000 accessible home.
Joshua, who likes to swim and play baseball, will need care for the rest of his life. When Joshua was a baby, doctors disconnected the left side of his brain to eliminate seizures, his mother explained. He doesn’t speak, has limited movement in his right hand and needs help to do most daily tasks.
The idea started two years ago after the Murphys heard about the possibility of a 25-year wait. That’s unacceptable, Sandy said. Her son and others should be able to move away from their parents and live as independently as they can.
Once this first Murchadha House is built, Community Living Essex County will rent the house and operate it as a home for four young people with an intellectual disability under the age of 18. There are children who have been sent out of the region so Community Living wanted to address that need, said Karen Bolger, executive director of Community Living Essex County.
Joshua won’t need to go to that home and the hope is the charity will build more homes.
People with an intellectual disability face a shortage of places with support services on top of the existing affordable housing crisis in Canada.
Some need little support but can’t live independently as an adult because of the affordable housing crisis, Bolger said. Others who need more support can end up in long-term care facilities. Many live with their aging parents and in some cases caregivers are trying to help both their parents and a child with an intellectual disability.
“It’s creating a crisis for a number of families. And I think families are feeling quite hopeless,” Bolger said. “This initiative even though it’s small, it’s a beginning and it’s certainly going to help a number of families.”
It’s a complex issue because of the different abilities of those seeking supported living and the different charities providing support. Bolger said there are about 1,300 adults with an intellectual disability waiting for housing supports through Developmental Services Ontario in southwestern Ontario.
There are 5,467 people in Windsor-Essex on a wait list for affordable housing, she said. The average wait for a single person is eight to 10 years, she said.
Murchadha House is seeking donations. Visit murchadhahouse.ca or email firstname.lastname@example.org to donate or get $25 dinner tickets for an April 26 fundraiser at Lakeside Park Pavilion in Kingsville with a Beatles tribute band.
The public is invited to the groundbreaking ceremony at 138 Fox Street in Cottam on April 27 at 11:30 a.m.