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BOB'S BLOG: Video illustrates senior's troubles finding a good home

By Bob Wood
December 19, 2014 - 0 comments

For many years, I was a manager in a non-profit that helped people with lower incomes find and maintain housing.

I don’t do that work now but my current day job keeps me in touch with housing issues.

It is not a profundity to say that we all need housing and that our specific housing needs change as we get older.

My jolly/optimistic side would like to believe that there are institutions and systems in place to help us in our housing search.

Maybe not though. 

And this brings me to a YouTube video that I’ve watched several times now.

It is the story of the housing search of one Hamilton senior.

I know this particular senior pretty well.

Mary Sinclair is a housing advocate in Hamilton. She is perhaps best known for being the president and driving force behind an organization known as Freedom House.

Established in 1999, with the official name of The Coalition of Citizens Concerned about Long Term Care, the group worked to develop a program that would meet the lifelong needs of people with a variety of limitations.  Over the years, the idea evolved towards developing an integrated community, rather than an institutional facility, that would meet the housing needs of people with disabilities, regardless of age.

I played a small part in supporting these efforts.

Mary doesn’t have that housing built, not yet anyway, but she keeps working as an advocate.  Last year she was recognized for her efforts with a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Mary is 77 give or take a year now.  Her health isn’t what it was.

In fact, a couple of years ago she began to experience vision loss.  With diabetes and blood pressure issues as well, Mary began to question whether she could continue to live independently.

Mary then spent 18 months trying to find appropriate housing for herself.

While “navigating the system” she experienced a lot of frustration.  What she needed was apparently available “only on paper” or was “part of future plans.” She ran up against brick walls when meeting with professionals who are there to help but who didn`t ``know the answers`` to pretty basic questions.

Mary`s housing search is documented in a video put together by Anju Joshi and John Kumpunen with help from Denise O’Connor:

I hope you`ll watch it.  There is a surprise and happy ending to it.

However, there is a lesson here too.  Mary is an experienced advocate who knows her way around policy issues and rules and regulations, particularly in the housing field.   Yet, she went through this struggle at a time in her life when her own health problems needed to take precedence.

That`s a concern because as she notes in the video, she`s “not the only senior in the city.” 

Bob Wood is a housing and poverty advocate and former two-term Burlington City Councillor who has built a bed-and-breakfast with his wife on Lake Erie. He is on Twitter at @timberwood24.

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