Living with complex needs adds challenges to housing search

Josh Pennell
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This week The Telegram has been writing about issues raised in the annual report of the citizens’ representative. Another story from the report shows the challenges people with complex needs can come across when trying to find somewhere to live.

A woman who came to the Office of the Citizen’s Representative looking for help certainly fell into the category of having complex needs. She was a victim of spousal abuse and also had both a mental illness and an issue with her leg that made walking difficult.

In addition to all that, there were also problems with depression and anxiety.

The woman was couch surfing when she applied to Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corp. (NLHC) and was told she was being put on a waiting list.

Barry Fleming is the citizens’ representative.

“We were able to go back to her to get evidence for the various physical and mental disabilities that she suffered under,” he said.

There was a lack of information in the woman’s application with the NLHC that meant she was filed differently than she should have been. With the new information Fleming and his office helped provide, a vacancy was found and approved for the woman.

The story, despite the happy ending, highlights two issues of concern for Fleming, though.

One is the difficulty in finding housing.

Another is the difficulty for some people to effectively navigate the processes it takes to find what is available to them.

“We see more and more people who are struggling,” he said.

Annette Powell is an advocacy skills co-ordinator with the Independent Living Resource Centre. She echoed Fleming’s concerns. Every time she turns around something else is being built but very little of it is actually being made accessible to people with disabilities, she said.

“It’s frustrating to see so much being built and so little of it being accessible when there’s such a great need for it. We’re seeing people desperately needing housing that’s just not there,” she said.

Sometimes people slip through the categorical cracks too because they make just slightly too much to qualify for housing, she said.

With the cost of living going up and cutbacks putting a cap on how much financial help there is available for people who do qualify, existence is complicated for some.

“I see a constellation of factors coming together that are just making it really challenging” Powell said.

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Housing, Office of the Citizen, Independent Living Resource Centre

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