BY: Michelle Strutzenberger

Jason-RaeJason Rae, the board president for Community Living Campbellford-Brighton and a self advocate, has identified two issues that he feels should take top priority in the association’s agenda for 2005 – housing and disability supports.

“Right now we’re in a housing crisis,” says Jason.

“A couple of people we support don’t have homes. It’s a big issue here.”

In a previous interview with Leaders, Chris Grayson, Community Living Campbellford-Brighton’s executive director, also identified available housing as a pressing issue in Northumberland County, particularly for aging parents of sons and daughters who have an intellectual disability.

Fortunately, the Campbellford-Brighton association will be able to make the housing issue a focus in 2005. Several months ago, the association received notice of a $25,000 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to study the housing needs of aging families who live in Northumberland County.

The association will be completing a one-year “in-depth analysis” to find out issues facing aging families and what they do or do not have in place for the future when it comes to living arrangements, wills and life planning. It is also geared at identifying people who may be in an appropriate living situation now but won’t be in the very near future.

The eventual goal is to take the findings and use them to develop appropriate housing solutions for people in Northumberland County, according to Chris.

Disability supports should also be a key focus for 2005, says Jason. Last year, people with disabilities received an increase of three per cent in income support under the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). This was the first time in 11 years that people with a disability had received any increase under this program.

“Three per cent is pocket change,” says Jason, noting that it means about $27 in additional funds per month. He says it doesn’t come anywhere near to meeting the real needs of people with intellectual disabilities. “What’s $27 going to do for medical bills?”

When the budget was announced in May 2004, Community Living Ontario said the three per cent increase was “grossly inadequate.”

Jason says he personally would like to see changes to the income regulations associated with ODSP. For instance, he has been an employee of Campbellford Office Supplies for about six years. While he can’t support himself fully with his income, he says he often brings home more than the ODSP income regulations allow. The excess amount is deducted from his disability support, which makes things extremely difficult for his living situation, he says.

“I’d like us to be able to keep more of what we earn,” says Jason, who has taken a very active role in the past in meetings with local politicians concerning the need for increased ODSP payments for individuals with disabilities.

In June 2003, Jason became the first self advocate in Ontario to be elected president of a federated agency.

His personal goal for 2005 is to run for the position of director at large for Community Living Ontario.