Different People, Regular Roommates

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Different People, Regular Roommates

Finding a roommate who’s a good fit is a relief for most of us. For people with intellectual disabilities, it could be a lifeline — an opportunity for more inclusion in society. “Friendly Housemates” is a joint program being developed by Centennial College researchers and Community Living Toronto to make that lifeline available to more people.

The idea of Friendly Housemates is to pair people with an intellectual disability and undergraduate students in shared living arrangements. The students get free accommodation, a bursary and a guaranteed summer job in exchange for their role in helping their “friendly housemate” to live a life that’s more integrated with society and more independent, but still in a secure and supportive environment.
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Centennial College is partnering with Community Living Toronto (CLT) to launch a program that pairs students and individuals living with intellectual disabilities in a shared living arrangement.

The research project, titled “Friendly Housemates,” will monitor roommates over the course of the school year, starting in September.

Matthew Poirier, the community support coordinator at CLT, said one of the goals of Friendly Housemates is to assess whether the living arrangement could offer people with intellectual disabilities a way to live independently in the community, outside of traditional support models like paid living assistance or group homes.
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When Krystal Nausbaum moved out of her family home nearly two years ago to live with a friend from her high school, she knew it was a big step.

Both women have intellectual disabilities. Although it was her first time on her own, Nausbaum, 27, was comforted by the fact they’d be joined by a third housemate, Maggie Sulc, who’d act not as a caregiver but a mentor — a peer they could learn from and who would lead by example.
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Individuals with an intellectual disability and their families look to Community Living Toronto for a range of services and supports, including residential options. However, with demand greatly exceeding supply, the wait time for suitable housing is increasing.

“There’s a significant shortage of appropriate residential supports, and waiting is very difficult for many individuals and families,” says Matt Poirier, a community support coordinator with the organization. “We also need to look at alternative housing models to offer more choice. Younger individuals, for example, often don’t want to live in a group home and many people we support, want and can live more independently.”

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Friendly Housemates is a new residential project Community Living Toronto is exploring in partnership with Centennial College. The model matches post-secondary students in shared living with an individual with an intellectual disability, to live as housemates and experience the importance of having friends and being active in your community. This week, Community Support Coordinator Matt Poirier spoke with NewsTalk 1010 about the project.


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