It sounds like a simple thing for most of us — an independent life, living in a house that is set up for our purpose.
- There is a shortfall of 1,718 homes for people with disabilities in Queensland
- More than 800 younger people are in aged care homes despite being eligible for independent homes
- It’s hoped within five years there will be more options for disability housing as demand grows
But that is not the case for thousands of people living with disabilities.
Finding a house fit for their needs is not always so simple.
For Tyson Turner-Thomas there is no greater joy than heading down to the rugby league field in North Ipswich to watch Ipswich Jets run on the field for a home game.
The 24-year-old, who was born with spastic dystonic quadriplegia cerebral palsy, is set to move in August into a house on a long-term lease that is just blocks from the beloved club.
The home is being purpose built at a cost of $627,000 for not-for-profit, Social Ventures Australia, which will own the house and lease it to Mr Turner-Thomas long-term.
The floor is level throughout, the hallways and doors wide, and Mr Turner-Thomas will be able to open electric doors through an app, without the help of a carer.
Currently living in a share house with other people with disabilities — housemates he has not chosen — Mr Turner-Thomas is excited about gaining the independence he has been craving.
Most importantly, he will no longer have to catch a taxi to watch the Jets play.
“That is the ultimate goal I am aiming for,” he said while visiting the grounds.
“All the boys know me here.
“It’s been a big part of my life really, I have been involved with the club for eight or nine years now.
“I have been waiting for a very long time to see this house get off the ground.”
Hundreds unnecessarily living in aged care home
Alecia Rathbone, from the disability housing advocacy group the Summer Foundation, said the NDIS had created more choice for people living with disabilities around housing.
The Foundation works with people with complex needs, many who are not aware that they are potentially eligible for specialist disability accommodation.
Ms Rathbone said in Queensland there was a shortfall of 1,718 Specialist Disability Accommodation places.
Furthermore, 820 people under the age of 64 are eligible for places but are in aged care facilities.
It is hoped that in five years, the number of people eligible for SDA funding across Australia will double to 28,000, which would give clients more buying power.
“When we get to that point the people can use the dollars in their plan and decide where they live and who they want to live with and operate more like that as a consumer,” she said.
“In the past system … you were told where you would live and who with.
“Often people will be in hospital and there isn’t an appropriate housing option for them, so aged care is presented as an option.
“We need to stop people going into [aged care facilities].”
Custom built and priceless
Deborah Segeren from building firm SDA Queensland said they took Mr Turner-Thomas’s wish list into account when designing the home.
The company coordinated the construction of the home with builders Social Ventures Australia and will manage the house through the NDIS.
“It is not about just creating another place for him to live,” she said.
“It is actually his home, and you can see as he is going through, he actually loves it.
“We need more groups purchasing properties like this and letting people like Tyson live in them for the rest of their lives.”
Builder Christian Serne said disability accommodation was generally more costly to build due to the additional requirements of wide doors, ramps, hoists, and no steps.
“For example the kitchen has some open space so the participant can roll underneath with their wheelchair so they can wash their own dishes and cook their own meals,” Mr Serne said.
“They are custom-built.
“Expense doesn’t really come into it.
“At the end of the day he has his own home, freedom and privacy, so the extra dollars are well worth it.”
Finding a voice
Mr Turner-Thomas, who worked on the plans for the house with Social Ventures Australia, hoped more people would be able to access funding like he did and find suitable places.
“If I get frustrated, I think about how I can make this situation better,” he said.
“It is really sad to know [young people are in aged care].
“I am happy to do this story and show them that there are other options.
“People need to have a voice and keep speaking up.
“There are people out there who will listen to you, back you and get you what you need.”