The Importance Of Supporting Inclusive Communities & Housing For Adults With Disabilities

Courtesy Barrie 360 Marie Gagne Published: Feb 22nd, 2023

Ontario is currently facing a housing crisis for adults and seniors with developmental disabilities, such as Down’s Syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. These individuals experience persistent limitations in everyday living skills and cognitive abilities throughout their lifetime.

As one of the most vulnerable groups in the province, these individuals require active support to stay safe and be contributing members of their communities. But a lack of suitable solutions is creating a housing gap for those with developmental disabilities. 


Often times those with developmental disabilities rely on care from parents and family well into adulthood. But as these caregivers age, they begin to struggle with their own health issues and physical limitations. As a result, they’re no longer able to provide the same level of care and support for their adult children. This has led to a deepening housing and care crisis for adults with developmental disabilities.

This crisis was further exacerbated by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to this time, many individuals with developmental disabilities were managing to live at home and within their communities. But reduced levels of support, being stuck inside and limited interactions caused many to struggle. As a result, these individuals now require more direct support. 

In addition, the economic impacts of the pandemic have made it more difficult for families to afford the range of care and support that their loved ones need. 

All of this has created a greater need for developmental services housing. This type of housing is designed to serve those with developmental disabilities while giving them the opportunity to enjoy semi-independent living. 


Without proper housing, unsuitable and expensive alternatives are being used by adults and seniors with developmental disabilities. In fact, individuals with developmental disabilities spend more time than anyone else in hospital emergency, acute, and ALC beds. At shelters, adults and seniors with developmental disabilities account for 18 to 30% of chronic users. 

In addition, long-term care (LTC) facilities and nursing homes are increasingly being used for individuals with developmental disabilities. The fact that many people with developmental disabilities end up in LTCs 25 years earlier than other people, intensifies the challenges.  

None of these are appropriate or cost-effective solutions for those living with developmental disabilities. And it reduces the available space for individuals in need who are more well-suited to these services. 


For more than 10 years, the provincial government has essentially frozen investments in developmental services housing. This had led to long waitlists that continue to grow more problematic. 

According to a 2016 report, in 2014, 15,246 people living with developmental disabilities were living in suitable housing. This may seem like a good number of individuals receiving support but it only accounted for a portion of those in need. An additional 13,000 people were still on waitlists. And each year, that waitlist increases by approximately 1,200 people. 

Meanwhile, between 2014 and 2016, only 6% of those on the 2014 waitlist received housing support. In fact, those with developmental disabilities have to wait 10 times longer than the average person to receive affordable housing. 


Camphill Communities Ontario is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to creating inclusive communities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The organization began as a home and learning center for children. But as the children grew up, Camphill evolved into an adult-centric community. In fact, some individuals have been receiving support and living at Camphill since it was established in 1986.


“We want people we support to be able to have the same opportunities as you and I. Whether it’s living, playing, working … we want to create that balance between people with disabilities and all of us.” — Larry Palmer, Executive Director of Camphill Communities Ontario

One of the main ways that Camphill helps the community is by providing a safe space for individuals with developmental disabilities. The organization’s communities are designed to provide a supportive living environment where individuals can develop life skills, build relationships, and participate in a range of activities. 

By creating these communities, Camphill is helping to combat the social isolation that many of these individuals experience while breaking down barriers and overcoming stereotypes and misconceptions. 

Camphill also provides a range of day programs to individuals with special needs. Programs include land activities like caring for animals, growing crops, and making maple syrup. They also provide art therapy, life skill classes, and vocational support. 


These services are essential for the individuals that the organization serves, as they help them to overcome challenges and reach their full potential.


Camphill provides a variety of settings for those living in supportive housing. This includes:

  • Group homes
  • Independent living communities
  • Apartments attached to larger homes with 24/7 support and connection 

Individuals can also live independently in the community and receive regular support from Camphill staff. 

The problem is, as residents age, so do their accessibility needs. This means that Camphill’s facilities require a growing number of updates and retrofits. 

Kathy Downes, Executive Director of Fundraising for Camphill Foundation Canada, has been with the organization for 5 years. She explains, “Prior to the pandemic we relied on tours of our farm property and site visits to attract partnerships. We even had a storefront downtown in Barrie, however, that store has since closed.” Camphill also hosted craft fairs, which attracted a lot of attention and people. 


To help adapt to the changes brought on by the pandemic, Camphill worked with local organizations. Kathy shares, “We have partnered with some wonderful service clubs including the Kempenfelt Rotary and the Angus Legion as well as support from the Barrie Community Foundation that has helped us to navigate the past few years.

“In 2022 we held our first Maple Weekend thanks to a partnership with Drysdale tree farm we look forward to hosting that again this April 1-2 again with Drysdale tree farm.”

But Camphill is also looking to attract new partners, businesses, and individual donors. Kathy explains, “We rely heavily on the support of individuals and community groups and businesses for our capital needs. Right now, our focus is on ensuring our homes are accessible for the needs of our residents so that they can safely age in place.” To find out more about Camphill and how you can help, visit their website.

Patricia Dent

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