My house, my choice: Drew’s story of moving out of a group home and into his own apartment

Drew and his mom Marnie worked to find a home for Drew that would give him access to the many activities he participates in, including working, studying, sports and social events. Drew recently took on the role of strategic initiative advisor with CLBC, which includes supporting the include Me! quality of life survey process in the South Interior.

Drew and his mom Marnie share their story of how Drew was unhappy in his group home and found a way to live independently in Kelowna.  Because of their resilience, advocating and hard work, Drew is now living in the home of his dreams.

Finding the
right fit

Marnie: The entire process of Drew moving away from his family home into the arms of CLBC involved many discussions and hours of planning. The group home living model was a starting point for Drew to learn to live without family members as caregivers. At that time, there was one option presented for Drew to choose in Vernon and we agreed to start there. The original agreement was that he would live there for one year, and during that time we would plan the next step towards a living arrangement that was more suitable for him.

Drew had a vision of what his living arrangement would look like and he advocated relentlessly for himself to make that happen. This arrangement had to include easy access to public transportation so he could come and go as he wished. Drew is a very busy fellow who attends college, works at the Home Depot and CLBC, plays power wheelchair soccer, sit skis and participates in the therapeutic riding program.  In the evenings he wants the option to go to pubs or nightclubs, movies and social events. The group home he was living in did not have a bus stop in the neighbourhood and did not allow the spontaneity of coming and going.

Drew: I want to talk a little bit about the group home. I went from living with my mom and having lots of freedom and choice to a place that gave me very little. The group home model did not work very well for me so I really wanted my own place.  A dear friend of mine and her family helped me find this apartment in Kelowna.

Marnie: Considering Drew’s wishes to live a more fulfilling life at this stage in his life, we had to find him another place to live. During the planning process, CLBC mentioned BC Housing. Drew first applied to BC Housing, and then with the help of a friend, to the non-profit and co-op housing providers, where he struck gold.

The Father Delestre Society in Kelowna had a two-bedroom apartment available. It is a 2 bedroom, fully wheelchair accessible subsidized apartment that is close to a bus stop and many shops he can get to on his own.

Drew: It felt very liberating! I was so excited and happy.

It takes a village

Marnie: Word got out pretty quick that Drew needed everything to furnish his new apartment. He didn’t even own a fork! Co-workers at the Home Depot, family and friends all rallied together to share Drew’s story and the things he required. It was not long before he had everything he needed and was ready to move. Simultaneously, we figured out a funding agreement with CLBC for Drew’s care and chose an agency from a list provided by them.

The Home Depot in Vernon, where Drew (front) worked for two and a half years, was recognized as an inclusive employer by the local CLBC Community Council. Read the full story here. (photo: Brieanna Charlebois / Vernon Morning Star)

Drew: I chose Strive to be the agency to help with my care and I couldn’t have chosen a better agency! Strive listens to me and makes sure my supports are based around my wants and needs and the agency puts me first before anything else. This is something that means a lot to me. I was a bit nervous for about one day after I moved in and after that, you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

Drew: I was able to keep my job at the Home Depot by putting in a transfer request. The Kelowna Home Depot is much bigger and has more products which has been a small challenge for me, but as far as my job goes, it is exactly the same. I work in the electrical department and I specialize in lighting. So if you need a professional lighting specialist come to see me at Home Depot in Kelowna!

Excitement for the future

Marnie: I have experienced many emotions during Drew’s move and wear many hats when it comes to helping Drew in his journey. I have “lovingly” put in countless hours and realize it’s all worth it when I see that beautiful smile on his face and his newfound freedom. As a parent of a child with different abilities, and just like any parent of any child, I want him to be happy and excited about his future. It just takes time – and lots of it!

Drew: There is so much I want to do.  I am going to be more active, go to a gym as well as sit ski this winter and definitely find a way into the hot tub at the pool. I am hoping to develop some relationships and make friends in Kelowna.

One of my main goals in my life for as long as I can remember is to get my grade 12 Dogwood diploma. I have been working towards this goal in Vernon for the past three years and I get to carry on my educational pursuits in Kelowna starting in January.

Another goal I have is to be an advocate for others who may not have a voice or the ability to advocate for themselves. I am passionate about having a say in what happens in my life and I believe others should be able to have the same choices I do.

Supporting diverse choices

CLBC believes that everyone has the right to pursue employment, spend time with friends, live where they want and be in control of their life. This means there need to be different models of services and supports. Sometimes finding that perfect home or service can take time, but staff are committed to working together with input and choice from the person, the family and those that care most about them.

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