A place to call home in North Van
After Cavan Stevens broke ground with his shovel and smiled for the photo-op, he felt a sense of relief.
There were others at the ground-breaking ceremony for the new 14-apartment HYAD Place on Chesterfield Avenue that undoubtedly shared his feelings.
Seven years ago the parents of 14 North Shore young adults with developmental disabilities got together to find a solution to this nagging question: Who will take care of my kids when I’m gone?
“Our big concern is what is going to happen to him,” says Stevens about his son Gallagher, who is 31.
The group of parents had met informally at Special Olympics events and the North Shore Connexions Society. Many of their children have known each other since they were toddlers attending the same events and programs.
All their kids lived at home but they knew they wouldn’t be able to stay forever. They envisioned a place where their high-functioning adult children could live semi-independently with their friends and be close to their support network and programs. It had to be something permanent as their children don’t adapt to change easily.
So the group of parents, on the advice of staff at the City of North Vancouver, started a non-profit society and called it Housing For Young Adults With Disabilities.
The society began with no land, no equity and no idea about what hurdles lay ahead.
“Oh yeah, epic,” says Stevens of the seven-year journey to secure housing for his son.
But as Dr. Vera Frinton, secretary and treasurer of HYAD, noted during Friday’s event, “We all hung in for the long haul.”
There were many times along the way when they weren’t sure if their vision would become reality but the diverse group of parents kept plugging along with a common goal, their children’s future.
The parents demonstrated their unwavering commitment by investing their own money in the project, throwing fundraisers, meeting with city staff and housing officials, attending meetings on everything from rezoning to OCP amendments, collecting signatures from local politicians and more.
And now they finally have a permanent address for their adult children.
The $6.6-million facility will feature a private unit for each resident, along with a common lounge and kitchen. There will also be an onsite residential manager and life skills worker. The HYAD society, which is contributing $166,000, will manage and operate the apartments.
There was a large cast of community players to thank last Friday: the North Van school district for donating the land, the developer Polygon, the city of North Van and the B.C. government. There were MLAs and MPs, past and present, city staff, architects and builders, the mayor and, of course, the tireless efforts of HYAD president Clayton Knowlton and his wife Susan.
Doors to HYAD Place are expected to open by the end of the year.
Soon, it may become a housing template used in other communities.
Already the society has received calls from as far away as Nova Scotia from organizations interested in learning more about HYAD Place.
“We all know as aging parents we want to be sure our children are in a safe and secure environment [and are able to] age in place,” says Frinton. “This will be home.”