Persons with intellectual disabilities have remained one of the most marginalized and disadvantaged groups in Canadian society. The fully-staffed group home model, developed during the “deinstitutionalization” movement of the 1980s, is currently the main option for most people with intellectual disabilities. Although an improvement over residential care, these models limit choice, autonomy or social integration—particularly for those persons not requiring 24-hour professional care. As a result, people with intellectual disabilities are denied the opportunity to grow and develop to their full potential in creating social networks, autonomy, and self-directed decision-making.
The Friendly Housemates Project, developed as a collaboration between Community Living Toronto and Centennial College, is seeking to address the lack of housing options for people labeled as having intellectual disability by connecting people with intellectual disabilities with college students as ‘friendly housemates.’ By developing a relationship centred around mutual care, rather than the traditional unidirectional model of care so often seen in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities (such as within the group home model), Friendly Housemates offers greater opportunity for socialization and autonomy. This in turn allows the housemates to more fully embrace their decision making skills and truly participate in semi-independent living.
The first phase of the Friendly Housemates project focused on creating and examining households that operate within the Friendly Housemates model. During this phase, participants were matched in living situations and interviewed at six month intervals in order to track the progress of the relationship and identify key learnings.
In phase two of the study, the research team is looking to expand our understanding of current shared living models, their benefits and limitations, and what supports need to be in place to sustain an ideal model of shared living. We are seeking informed opinions on supportive housing and recommendations for both practice and policy as we bring our learnings forward to expand possibilities for shared living experiences across Ontario.