Quebec housing waitlists for people with disabilities have never been worse: advocates

"The younger people aren't really getting spots," said Montrealer Harriet Sugar Miller, as her 29-year-old neurodiverse daughter has been on a waitlist for alternative housing for years and is demanding a solution. Alyssia Rubertucci reports.

Four years of waiting and not much to show for it.

That’s how Montreal’s Harriet Sugar-Miller feels about her neurodivergent daughter’s situation. Caroline, 29, has been waiting for a spot in alternative group housing since at least 2020.

“There’s very, very little inventory out there,” Sugar-Miller said. “People are aging in place much longer. So, in all of the group homes, for example, most of the people are older. The younger people aren’t really getting spots.

“There are a lot more people being diagnosed with autism now, a developmental disability. The government over the past decade or so has done very little in the way of new housing.”

As waitlists for seniors’ residences and home care grow, so are waitlists for care for adults with disabilities.

Sugar-Miller says Caroline’s spot on the waitlist has not advanced.

“We’re looking for housing within the community. We want inclusive housing,” she said. “We don’t want segregation. So, I know the government is about to open up a 72-bed facility, all for people with disabilities. That’s not what we want.

“We need the government entities to work together to create housing.”

Caroline Sugar-Miller, 29, is neurodivergent and has been waiting for a spot in alternative group housing since 2020. (Submitted by: Harriet Sugar-Miller)

Patients’ rights advocate Paul Brunet says in the last few decades, he’s never seen such lengthy waitlists.

“Tens of thousands of people waiting either for a bed in a long-term facility,” Brunet said. “And even for the ones who are registered, I have complaints of hours cut, services cut, re-evaluation, diminution of services.

“It’s like if they wanted to give a little to everyone but not enough to anyone.”

Frustrated by a lack of services for neurodivergent young adults who were no longer in school, Sugar-Miller worked with other families to start the Alink Foundation.

“We proposed a project to the government. It’s called ‘cluster living,’” she said. “So it’s small groups of apartments within a larger apartment building that’s open to everybody with support on site. And we actually have gotten some government funding that would be available for the educators that we have working and living in the building.”

Advocate Harriet Sugar-Miller founded the Alink Foundation, which helps young adults who have neurodiverse challenges. (Alyssia Rubertucci, CityNews)
Harriet Sugar-Miller scrolls through the Alink foundation website. (CityNews)

In the coming year, Sugar-Miller expects to set up 12 young adults to live in groups with a caregiver, but says she still wants to see movement on the waitlists.

“For us parents who are in our 70s, I know a mother who’s almost 80 still has her kid at home. It’s very, very hard as we age and have our own problems to also have to be taking care of our kids.”

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