Above, from left: L'Arche Connects members Shawna, Warren, Kathryn and April. Over the next week, they will each move into apartments of their own through our new supported independent living model of support.
It's an exciting week at L'Arche Saint John, and it's not just the anticipation of a long weekend.
Over the next week, four adults with intellectual disabilities will move into apartments of their own at The Wellington, the new complex built by Saint John Non Profit Housing in the heart of uptown Saint John.
These move-ins mark a milestone moment – not just in L'Arche Saint John's history with this new model of support through supported independent living – for some members, it will be the first time having an apartment of their own.
This moment has been a long time coming. In the past year, significant groundwork was laid to launch this program, L'Arche Connects.
Milestones included allocating a full-time position to developing the program, selecting and building relationships with four adults with intellectual disabilities as core members of the program, and nurturing collaborative partnerships with Saint John Non Profit Housing, Inclusion NB and the Department of Social Development to make this pilot project a success.
We have worked closely with core members and their families to build relationships, draft transition plans and dream about what life will be like in an apartment of their own. Our thanks to Inclusion NB, partners on this program, for their support in navigating this new model of support for our community.
Recently, I asked members of the program, Warren, Shawna, April and Kathryn what they are most excited for about the transition. Common themes were, as Kathryn articulated, “being in a new place and having a fresh start,” and being “alone in a place I can call my own.” Demonstrating abilities was also important, such as what Shawna described as most exciting: “For people to see we have a disability but that doesn’t stop us from our abilities.” Warren is excited that the building is wheelchair accessible, so everyone is welcome, “and specifically my girlfriend.”
While this model of support is based on independent living, there is an important component of building a community network of support around core members. This is important for April, who is excited to navigate a new chapter of independence yet alongside the support of new friends – she is excited to be able to “joke around and play games to get to know one another.” By fall, we will initiate the outreach component of the program, which will extend social support to an additional 20 adults with intellectual disabilities in the region.
Do you remember moving into your first apartment? It's a transformational experience. This opportunity for our L'Arche Connects members wouldn't be possible without your financial support. Please consider a gift to L'Arche Saint John today by donating here.
Jessica van Zyll de Jong
L'Arche Connects Program Leader