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Step 1: Exploring and understanding housing needs and wants, and creating your housing plan

Step 1: Exploring and understanding housing needs and wants, and creating your housing plan

Step 1
Step 2: Reviewing housing options and locations

Step 2
Step 3: Financing the plan

Step 3
Step 4: Managing housing supports

Step 4
Step 5: Building a plan that will support change

Step 5
Step 6: Learning from others

Step 6
DSO housing navigators contact list

CONTACTS

 Step 1:
Exploring and understanding housing needs and wants, and creating your housing plan

To create your housing plan, the first step you will have to take is to explore and discover your strengths, needs and desires. This section will help you learn how to:

  1. create your vision,
  2. understand strengths and needs,
  3. use technology to increase independence, and
  4. build a support team.

You can also listen to our DSO Podcast: Exploring Individualized Housing, which will help you explore and understand housing needs and wants so that you can get started on your house planning journey.


Disclaimer: This online toolkit is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, technical, business or other advice and should not be relied on as such. Please consult a professional if you have any questions related to the topics discussed in this toolkit. Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) and its host agencies do not endorse any commercial product, process or service referenced in this toolkit, or its producer or provider. The DSO also does not make any express or implied warranties, or assumes any legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or usefulness of any information contained in this toolkit, including web-links to other servers. All URLs mentioned in this document will link to an external website.

A. Create your vision

Your vision is the foundation of your housing plan. It is a description of your hopes and dreams and it answers the following information gathering questions: who, what, when, where, and how. For example, where would you like to live? Who would you like to live with?

Why do I need to have a vision?

It is difficult to develop a plan without understanding what you hope to achieve or how you hope to spend your time on a daily basis. Your vision will identify what is important to you and what will bring you happiness.

Does my vision need to be realistic?

No. Your vision just needs to describe where you see yourself in a perfect world. In fact, starting with a blank canvas is very important. Your housing vision should be about you, not what services or supports you think you can access or obtain. The goal of the housing plan is to bring you as close as possible to your larger vision.

What will my housing vision provide to my support team?

Your housing vision will provide your support team with a clear statement and overall purpose. It will provide the team with inspiration and help to motivate them. The vision will allow your team to “check-in” to ensure that everything is moving in the right direction. Read the build a support team section of this toolkit to understand how to create your support team.

Should I update my housing vision?

Yes. Your housing vision needs to be updated (or at least reviewed) on a yearly basis because your vision will change based on your life experiences. As you learn about other housing plans, your vision may change as well.

Determining where you want to live

When determining where you want to live, there are many things to consider besides the geographic location. It is important to consider all your options and possibilities. Filling out the My housing vision and My home evaluation documents in the Resources section below will help you explore and list what is important to you and meets your needs and wants.


Disclaimer: This online toolkit is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, technical, business or other advice and should not be relied on as such. Please consult a professional if you have any questions related to the topics discussed in this toolkit. Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) and its host agencies do not endorse any commercial product, process or service referenced in this toolkit, or its producer or provider. The DSO also does not make any express or implied warranties, or assumes any legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or usefulness of any information contained in this toolkit, including web-links to other servers. All URLs mentioned in this document will link to an external website.

B. Understand strengths and needs

Once you have created your vision for your housing plan, you are ready to work on identifying what you have (strengths) and what you need to make your plan come to life so you can live as independently as possible. Fill out the inventory checklist below to help you review your current situation.

Inventory checklist

Print the table

1. Do you have any of the following documents that support that you have a developmental disability?
  • a psychological assessment
  • an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
2. Have you applied for ministry-funded adult developmental services through your area DSO?
3. Have you completed an application package through your area DSO (if eligible)?
4. Do you have support from the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)
5. Do you have Passport funding (for community supports, respite, PDP, facilitation support, etc.)?
6. Do you receive a disability tax credit?
7. Do you have a Registered Disability Savings Plan (e.g. RDSP)?
8. Do you have a Henson Trust to protect assets and government funding like ODSP?
9. Are you aware of other government rebates, programs, subsidies and credits to support your planning?
10. Are you aware of other financial assets and resources that you may already have, or that may be available to you (e.g. the potential to build a secondary suite in the family home as a transitional space)

Review your checklist answers and understand how they will help you build your housing plan

Let’s review the 10 questions so you can understand why they’re important to the foundation of your housing plan.

  1. Documents that support that you have a developmental disability
    In order for you to apply for different government-funded programs, rebates, subsidies and credits, it’s important that you provide information and documentation to support that you have a developmental disability. These documents can include:
    • a psychological assessment
    • an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)

    Documentation is required to apply for services through the DSO. You can be confirmed eligible for adult developmental services at age 16, although the services will not start until age 18. In some cases, you can use your eligibility in one program to apply for other programs. For example, if you are eligible for adult developmental services through DSO, you can use your eligibility letter to simplify the process of applying for ODSP.

  2. Applying for adult developmental services through your area DSO

    When you turn 18, you are an adult. Children’s services such as Special Services at Home, Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities or services through the Ontario Autism Program end. You must apply to Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) to see if you are eligible for adult developmental services.

  3. Completing an application package through DSO

    If you are eligible for ministry-funded adult developmental services, you will be asked to attend 2 meetings to complete an application package. Once the application package is completed, a DSO staff person will create a report that summarizes your support needs. You will receive a copy of these documents to help build your housing plan. If you don’t have a copy of this report, you can contact your area DSO and request it from them. These documents will help you add more information to the About me and My housing vision documents that you filled out when you were creating your vision in Step 1a.

  4. ODSP support

    If you have a disability and need help with your living expenses, you may be eligible for the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). ODSP offers financial assistance to help you and your family with essential living expense; benefits, for you and your family, including prescription drugs and vision care. ODSP can also help you to find or maintain a job or advance your career.

  5. Passport funding

    The Passport program helps adults 18 years or older with a developmental disability to participate in their communities. It provides funding for services and supports so eligible adults with a developmental disability can:

    • take part in community classes or recreational programs,
    • find work, volunteer or develop daily life skills,
    • hire a support worker
    • hire an independent facilitator to create their own life plans (also called person-directed planning) to reach their goals (including the development of a housing plan),
    • get temporary respite for their caregivers.

    The Passport program is funded by the Ontario Government and is administered by local Passport Agencies.

  6. Disability Tax Credit

    To qualify for the Disability Tax Credit, you must have a mental or physical impairment that severely limits the day-to-day activities of life. Once you have qualified for the Disability Tax Credit in Ontario, you are eligible for yearly savings. Although circumstances vary, you may be eligible for a savings of C$1,600 per year.

  7. The Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP)

    RDSP is a savings plan that can be set up for a person who is eligible for the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) to help save for your financial future and security. You or your caregiver can make personal contributions to an RDSP. The federal government also offers grants and bonds to help your plan grow. Partners for Planning has prepared some helpful information to explain the benefits of an RDSP.

  8. Henson Trust

    This planning tool can be very useful when planning for your financial future. It is also known as a discretionary trust, which means that it can be put in place to protect the assets of the person with a developmental disability while also preserving their ability to access government benefits, such as ODSP. Partners for Planning has prepared some helpful information on the Henson Trust.

  9. Other Government Programs

    Sometimes there are municipal, provincial or local government programs that may assist with your housing plan development. For example, if you need to renovate your home some municipalities may have grants available through the Ontario Renovates Program. Your Housing Navigator can help you find out what may be available for your unique situation.

  10. Understanding financial assets / resources

    Have you identified the resources you and your family may contribute? Are you clear on what resources you or your family have that may contribute to your housing plan? For example, space within the family home to create a second unit or family financial resources that could be used to fund rent or supports? Your Housing Navigator can help you find out what may be available for your unique situation.

Strengthen your life skills

While you’re working on your housing plan it is important that you also work on building your life skills so that you can become more independent both at home and in the community. Strengthening these skills may help you to decrease your need for paid supports.

Here are some examples of things you can do to help you become more self-reliant depending on your vision:

  1. If your vision is to live without a support person present

    With the right preparation and coaching, you may learn to be safe on your own. Here are some programs that might be available to you in your community; contact your local housing navigator with inquiries about local options:

    • Safety for Independent Living is a course that has been created to help youth and adults with developmental disabilities feel safe in all their usual places: home, work, school, online and in the community. Through games, digital media, video and colourful graphics, this comprehensive 8 to 10 hour safety program empowers people with tools to make confident choices and live a safe life.
    • First Aid Training teaches you life-saving skills. You can register for a class through your local municipality, Canadian Red Cross, St. John Ambulance or local Community Living organization.
    • Trying it on for Size is a program that will support someone to live within a monitored environment to assess strengths and learn the necessary skills to live as independently as possible.

    Once you have completed some basic safety training, you should begin practicing being alone in a familiar setting. It’s best to start with short amounts of time and gradually increase the time. You can use technology to help support your safety. Review the technology section of this toolkit to learn how to use it to help support your needs.

  2. If your vision is to live with a support worker/person present

    It’s important to increase your comfort level with other people both in your home and out in the community. You may want to ask members of your support team, or hire a small group of staff, to come spend time with you in your home to help you build skills and independence in areas of need. Slowly increase the amount of time in the home with support people or staff until you are staying overnight with them. Gradually begin moving out of your home and into the community so you can practice the skills you’ve learned outside of your home environment.

  3. Important steps to take regardless of your vision

    Even if you are not ready to be home alone, here are some important steps you can begin to work on to help you become more independent:

    • document routines and support person/staff expectations that will be needed when you transition into your individualized residential model
    • increase responsibilities in the home, such as making your own lunches and snacks, or choosing what you would like to purchase (groceries and meal planning)
    • seize opportunities to make choices and learn how to solve problems
    • increase your independence skills, such as completing your morning routine
    • incorporate smart technology into your plan, when and if needed, to provide safeguards and to connect with others

Using respite services to test housing options

When building your housing plan, it can be difficult to determine the housing options that will or won’t work for you. A great way to figure out what might work best is to use respite services to test different residential settings and types of support/staffing.

Out-of-home respite is an opportunity to try some different options and gain valuable feedback/insight into what might work. Take a look at available options at respiteservices.com. You may also want to consider an overnight camp as a first experience.

Out-of-home respite is valuable because it allows you to:

  • explore what setting you like most.
  • try different support staff and types of support.
  • live with other potential housemates, before a commitment.
  • make new friends.
  • practice new skills and gain confidence.
  • understand potential staff needs, support needs and related costs when developing the plan.

If there are no out-of-home respite options available in your community, consider creating your own by:

  • renting a suite in a hotel, motel, Airbnb or similar and hiring support staff
  • contacting a local Community Living and asking them if they have a suitable program or if they could develop a fee-for-service program
  • asking a relative or friend to allow you to stay with them
  • staying alone in your home for a period of time without any family

Disclaimer: This online toolkit is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, technical, business or other advice and should not be relied on as such. Please consult a professional if you have any questions related to the topics discussed in this toolkit. Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) and its host agencies do not endorse any commercial product, process or service referenced in this toolkit, or its producer or provider. The DSO also does not make any express or implied warranties, or assumes any legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or usefulness of any information contained in this toolkit, including web-links to other servers. All URLs mentioned in this document will link to an external website.

C. Use technology to increase independence

Using technology in your housing plan can help you to build independence, autonomy and self-confidence. It can also decrease the amount of paid supports required, potentially making your plan more affordable. It can also help you with physical and cognitive challenges.

What is a smart product?

Smart products have information technology (IT) in them that lets you control or operate the devices by using your voice, or through a smart phone, tablet or computer. That is what makes them “smart.”

What is a smart home?

A smart home is a home equipped with lighting, heating and electronic devices that you can control remotely through a smart phone, tablet or computer. For example, you can check on your home through the internet and control various appliances to make sure dinner is cooking, the central heating is on, the curtains are drawn, the home is vacuumed, and a gas fire is roaring in the grate when you get home.

What is an app?

An app is an application, or software that can run through your smart phone, tablet, computer, or other electronic devices. Apps may or may not require a connection to the internet to work. Mobile apps are software applications that run on a smart phone. There are some made just for Apple products (iOS) and others that runs on most other smart phones/tablets like Samsung, Lenovo, Google, etc. (Android).

Building technology into your housing plan

The use of technology can increase your independence and help to lower your support costs. There are many ways that you can build the use of technology into your housing plan. Here are some success stories to help inspire your plan:

Success stories:

Resources

DSO does not endorse the URLs or products listed in this resource section; they are simply examples to help inspire you to build technology safely into your housing plan.

  1. Bell Accessibility Services
    This website highlights products, features, and discounts to help meet accessibility needs.
  2. Bridging Apps
    This website, managed by Easter Seals in the Greater Houston area, allows you to search apps by needs, category, price, and skill level.
  3. Community skills
    This document provides information about various devices that able to monitor your whereabouts in the community for safety purposes.
  4. Completing tasks, scheduling and staying on track
    This document provides information about apps and technologies that can help guide you through your daily tasks, track your schedule and offering reminders.
  5. Connected for Success
    Low-cost internet for those receiving income assistance.
  6. Domestic/household skills
    This document provides information about devices that can assist you to perform a variety of domestic skills; like cooking and cleaning. From smart appliances to computer and phone apps, technology can assist you with domestic and household skills. This document reviews different products that can help you regardless of your limitations.
  7. Enabling Technology
    This website showcases products for people, families, friends, and supporters.
  8. Financial and budgeting skills
    This document provides valuable information about money management. From paying bills on time, monthly budgeting and spending management, technology may be able to play a role. Of course, if you require significant help with finances, it’s best to appoint a trustee or power of attorney to assist you when needed. Technology may also be helpful for a power of attorney to monitor and manage your expenses.
  9. Habilhome
    This website provides a directory of applications and technology that can support independence.
  10. Health and medical aids
    This document provides important information about health and medical devices. Sometimes a medical condition could be what stands in your way to live more independently in your community. Technology for medical monitoring has grown a lot in the past several years. Medication administration, blood pressure monitoring, glucose recording, and slips, trips and falls are the top concerns for those with cognitive challenges living alone.
  11. Monitoring for safety
    This document provides information about safety technology that may help support your housing plan. Simple to advanced technology is available for safety monitoring; this document can help you explore everything from smoke detectors to full security or telecare systems.
  12. Rogers Accessibility Services
    This website provides services, supports, and discounts for people with accessibility needs.
  13. Tbaytel Accessibility Services
    Helpful tools and services to assist those with disabilities such as texting services for deaf and hard of hearing, relay service, IP relay, cell phone service and wireless discounts.
  14. Telus Accessibility Services
    Services, supports, and discounts for people with accessibility needs.
  15. The Arc Tech Toolbox
    This website allows you to search for assistive technology based on your needs. It also includes user ratings and reviews.

Disclaimer: This online toolkit is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, technical, business or other advice and should not be relied on as such. Please consult a professional if you have any questions related to the topics discussed in this toolkit. Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) and its host agencies do not endorse any commercial product, process or service referenced in this toolkit, or its producer or provider. The DSO also does not make any express or implied warranties, or assumes any legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or usefulness of any information contained in this toolkit, including web-links to other servers. All URLs mentioned in this document will link to an external website.

D. Build a support team

This section of the toolkit will help you consider what natural or unpaid supports are available in your life and how they may help you live as independently as possible. Natural supports are another resource that can reduce the costs associated with your housing plan. You can use the relationship circle document to record your relationships. The relationship circle document will serve as another component of your housing plan document. Once completed, you can use it to guide you in exploring who you may wish to invite to be a part of the team that will help to support your housing plan.

Natural and formal supports

Building your support team is very important when creating a housing plan. The first step is to determine the who you might have and need in your life. The goal for a person-directed planning team is to support you in achieving your hopes, plans and dreams. Teams are built on relationships, trust and a common purpose. There are 2 types of team members to consider.

  1. Natural supports: These are unpaid people in your life. They may include family and friends. They sometimes include people who used to be formal supports (e.g. a former teacher), who have become friends over time.

    Some natural supports that you may want to invite to join your support team may include:

    • parents and siblings,
    • cousins,
    • friends, spouses or kids of siblings,
    • neighbours,
    • past teachers,
    • past educational assistants,
    • past instructors or coaches,
    • family friends,
    • spiritual/faith-based supports/friends,
    • peers or classmates and their families,
    • volunteer or employment friendsk,
    • community members (i.e. local business owners, groups, etc.),
    • college/university students in DS studies (shared living) and
    • local seniors looking for help or to provide support (shared living).

    To help identify your support team, start with your own family and brainstorm. List all the people who have been in your life and have shown interest in maintaining a relationship. If you are creating a formal team, you will want to invite interested individuals to participate in planning meetings and activities. This team can be as small as 3 or as large as 10 to 12 people. Teams are dynamic and will change with time; relationships grow, change and adjust depending on our activities and interests. As we begin exploring new activities, we often begin building relationships.

    One example of utilizing natural supports would be to turn a finished basement into a legal secondary suite for a student studying for a Developmental Services program at a local college. You may already know of a student in your neighbourhood/community that you could provide affordable housing to and in turn they gain invaluable experience by providing ‘soft supports’, friendship and mentorship for a person with a developmental disability, plus provide potential respite for the caregivers.

    Another example could be for retired seniors in your community (again, could be someone you already know) that are looking to share their homes with an individual (or 2) in exchange for mutual support and companionship. There is much to be gained from inter-generational and inter-ability relationships; knowledge, experience and new perspectives.


  2. Formal supports: These are people who have a paid relationship with you, either through government funded resources or private funds. They might be support staff from a local agency, your swimming instructor, a teacher, etc.

    Some formal supports that you may want to invite to join your support team may include:

    • local agencies and associations,
    • teachers,
    • educational assistants,
    • direct support worker (respite staff),
    • case manager/case coordinators,
    • local health integration network staff/supports,
    • doctor or other health professionals and
    • camp or private respite agency staff.

Identifying team members

Once you have your relationship circle completed, you can begin to identify those who may be potential team members to provide some support within your housing plan. Have conversations with those within your relationship circle. You should:

  • share your goal of finding and living in your own place, with the right supports.
  • share your hope to have some friends to bounce ideas off and to problem solve arising issues.
  • let them know you value their input and experiences.
  • explain that you are forming a team of support to help you achieve your vision and goals.

People who are willing to help you in your housing journey can be added to your My support needs document. Try as much as you can to get help from your friends and family to keep your housing plan more affordable.

Expanding your support team/community

Team members can change based on your engagement in the community. For example, the more community activities you participate in, the more opportunities you will have to meet new people and build relationships. Over time, the people you connect with may be interested in providing natural or informal supports.

A strong team can provide the ongoing supports you will require. Relationships can be challenging to develop and maintain for many people. It can be helpful to engage the services of a facilitator or designate a member of your team who will focus energy towards maintaining and/or growing your supports. Team members may leave due to personal or life commitments (move to a new location, children of their own, etc.). Because of this, you should always be looking at inviting new people to join your team.

Expanding your team should be intentional. It can be beneficial to complete an annual review and set goals related to the maintenance and growth of your team. A balanced team may include:

  • people of your (similar) age, as they have similar experiences and may be around longer
  • as many natural and unpaid supports as possible
  • people who know you well and choose to spend time with you
  • formal supports, or paid supports, either hired privately or accessed through the government-funded options (passport workers, funded agencies, local municipal programs, personal support workers from your Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), etc.)

Connecting with in-home supports

Connect with your local government-funded health services through the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) to access funded in-home supports. These services are available to eligible Ontario residents of any age and are fully funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. Some of these services can:

  • assess and arrange for home visits from a health professional.
  • assess and manage admissions to long-term care facilities.
  • assess and manage admissions to certain adult day programs, supportive housing and assisted living programs, and chronic care and rehabilitation facilities.
  • provide information and referrals about other community agencies and services.
  • coordinate nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech-language therapy, dietician services, pharmacy services, diagnostic and laboratory services, respiratory therapy, social work, social service work, personal support and homemaking.

Adding sustainability to your plan

To add sustainability to your plan, you should build a more formal structure of friends and family to help support you.

  • Community circles: A community circle brings two or more people together around someone who wants a little help to make a change in their life. That change can be anything – from getting out and about more, expanding social life or living more independently in the community.
  • Microboards: A microboard is an autonomous group of at least 5 committed family and friends who join with you to create a supportive not-for-profit corporation. This is helpful for funding flow through, gathering assistance from areas of finance, health, community.

Need more resources?

Here’s a list of some provincial organizations that may be able to help you connect with more local resources.

211 Ontario
Helps you find information about programs and services in your community.

Arch Disability Law Centre
Arch Disability Law Centre is a specialty community legal aid clinic dedicated to defending and advancing the equality rights of people with disabilities in Ontario. ARCH provides legal services to help Ontarians with disabilities live with dignity and participate fully in our communities.

Canadian Red Cross
Canadian Red Cross offers an extensive network of programs and services that actively reach out and serve local communities throughout the province.

Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodations (CERA)
CERA is a not-for-profit charity that defends housing rights and human rights by educating individuals and communities, advancing progressive and inclusive housing law and policy, and providing legal information and services to marginalized Ontarians.

Government of Ontario
The Government of Ontario website provides information and a search portal for health care options. One of the listed options is home and community care services.

Intentional Community Consortium
Intentional Community Consortium solves the affordable housing crisis nationwide for individuals with developmental disabilities. They provide information based on their experience and expertise in planning housing options.

Home and Community Support Services
Agencies organizations provide patient care including home care and long-term care home placement services and facilitate access to community services. Home and Community Care Support Services organizations are responsible for deciding who receives care, the level of care you need and for how long.

March of Dimes Canada
March of Dimes Canada provides funding for basic home and/or vehicle modifications for Ontarians who experience a substantial impairment that is expected to last one year or more. Modifications air aimed at enabling individuals with mobility restrictions to continue living in their homes, avoid job loss, and participate in their communities.

Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association (ONPHA)
ONPHA leads, unites and supports a strong community-based affordable housing sector that helps to build vibrant, healthy and diverse communities for all Ontarians.

Ontario Community Support Association (OCSA)
OCSA is the voice of the home and community care sector. It is a valuable resource for learning about and connecting with home and community support services for seniors and people with disabilities. This website includes a directory for home care and community support services.

P4P Planning Network
Provides free resources designed to empower you, your family and caregiver(s).

St. Elizabeth Health Care
St. Elizabeth Health Care provides a variety of services including home support which could include meal planning and preparation, grocery shopping, laundry, light housekeeping, etc. These services are all available for a fee.

Trillium Drug Program (TDP)
TDP helps you pay for your high prescription-drug costs.

Victorian Order of Nurses (VON)
VON provides a variety of services. Their nurses, personal support workers, therapists and other health care providers care for Canadians in their homes, communities and workplaces.

Private health supports covered by OHIP:

House call doctors
Canada Home Doctors

Dental and dental hygiene house calls
EPICITI Mobile Dental Clinic

Mobile lab services for blood work and other lab needs
LifeLabs

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