Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and honourable members.
Good morning. My name is Gary Gladstone and I'm the lead of stakeholder relations at Reena, as well as the convenor of the Intentional Community Consortium.
Reena, celebrating its 50th anniversary next year, promotes dignity, individuality, independence, personal growth and community inclusion for people with diverse abilities, within a framework of Jewish culture and values. Open to all, Reena provides supportive housing, programming and employment services to over 1,000 individuals with developmental disabilities, including autism, and those with mental health challenges.
The Intentional Community Consortium represents 26 agencies that are advocating for and building not-for-profit, deeply affordable housing for the most vulnerable in society—those with developmental disabilities.
On behalf of those we support, I extend a huge thank you to the Government of Canada for listening to our appeal when I last appeared before HUMA in February 2017, to ensure that funds were allocated to those with developmental disabilities in any housing funding. When the national housing strategy was released in 2017, it allocated funds for at least 2,400 units with supports. To date, over 700 units have been built and occupied. More must be done and all levels of government must be at the table, but thank you, HUMA.
Gladys is a middle-aged woman and Anthony is her adult son. Both have developmental disabilities and both had been on a housing waiting list in York Region for years. Both Gladys and Anthony lived separately in the shelter system, receiving community supports. They then moved together into an apartment. Due to their complex needs and a lack of understanding of suitable accommodations from their landlord and other tenants, they were about to be evicted.
As a result of the national housing strategy and with the support of Ontario, York Region and Vaughan, the Lou Fruitman Reena Residence, Reena's second intentional community residence, which will be home to 136 residents with diverse needs, opened in 2021. Gladys and Anthony now live there. Because all levels of government worked together to assist the most vulnerable, rather than being separated and experiencing homelessness, I am proud to report that they have been living there together with the right supports to thrive for the past number of months. More must be done—I'll repeat—with all levels government, so that there can be more success stories.
Housing is a key social determinant of health and well-being. Housing is a fundamental right for all persons, including those with developmental disabilities. One size does not fit all. There is a wide range of needs, which demand a wide range of options.
There are 100,000 Ontario adults who have an intellectual disability. An estimated 40%, or 40,000, have a concurrent mental health diagnosis. At least 16,000 individuals with developmental disabilities are awaiting housing support across Ontario. Their projected wait time is 40 years. At least 300 individuals are wrongfully placed in hospitals, shelters or long-term care facilities, referred to as an alternative level of care. About 18% to 30% of those in homeless shelters have developmental disabilities.
In order to expand housing for those with developmental disabilities, on behalf of those we support, I would ask the following. Number one, in order for a lower tier level of government to access funds from the housing accelerator fund, they must agree to allocate at least 10% of their housing funds to support this vulnerable community.
Number two, the largest impediment to building more units is the expense and scarcity of land. CMHC must modify their funding to permit not-for-profit agencies to use CMHC funds to purchase land for deeply affordable housing. In Ontario, those on ODSP can only spend a maximum of $497 per month on rent. The average, you know, is well over $1,000.
Number three, additional federally owned properties must be made available to build deeply affordable housing specifically for those with developmental disabilities.
A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members, said Mahatma Gandhi. Through the proposed housing accelerator fund, you can ensure that Canada takes care of those who cannot advocate for themselves.
Gladys and Anthony were homeless, in unsuitable housing and about to be evicted. Now, they are thriving in appropriate accommodations, because the national housing strategy ensured that there were funds targeted to this most vulnerable community. Now, with your support, we need to ensure that those with developmental disabilities are never left behind again and that 10% of funds are dedicated to assist them.
For further information on Reena, please check out the website at www.reena.org.
Thank you very much for your time.