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Pathways to Inclusion

Everyone deserves to live with dignity, share in every element of living, and have equal opportunity to participate in their community, but that is not yet the reality of many people with developmental disabilities.

Community Living Huntsville is a not-for-profit, registered charity that supports and advocates alongside people with developmental disabilities in North Muskoka to live the lives they choose, as active, respected, and included members of their community.

In 2021, the Gay Lea Foundation provided a $15,000 grant to Community Living Huntsville in support of its Pathways program, so no one is left behind. The program is free for adults ages 18 and older, who are diagnosed with developmental disabilities and do not meet Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) criteria for the organization’s government-funded supports or are waitlisted for funds.

Pathways connects people with the Pathways Coordinator, who helps them plan the lives they want to live, and then build the skills and community connections they need realize their plans. It all starts with person-directed discussions that could include talks about goalsetting, education, employment, housing, spirituality, recreation, volunteerism, social connection, and more, and the person always remains the decision-maker.

Community Living Huntsville was able to support 13 people and families through Pathways in 2021-2022, a 30 per cent increase over previous years, thanks to financial contributions from the foundation and others.

People supported included a young woman, who was able work with the Pathways Coordinator to create her own independent living goals and immediately connect with Community Living Huntsville’s Supported Independent Living Team, while successfully completing the DSO application process, as she moved out on her own for the first time.

Another young woman was empowered to realize her goal of planning and preparing one meal weekly for her family by having support to create her own step-by-step checklist, which included choosing the meal, completing a grocery list, following a recipe, setting the table, and clearing up afterward. She now chooses to prepare meals twice weekly, thanks to the confidence provided by her new skills.

A family’s access to Pathways provided them the support they needed to navigate the DSO application process and connect with area mental health and addiction services offered by partner organizations in the community.

And an older man, who had an interest in building his skills around budgeting, cleaning schedule, and community connection, reached out to the Pathways Coordinator, who plans to work with him to reach his goals, build a circle of support to reduce isolation, and complete the DSO application process for long-term sustainable support.

These are only a few of the people supported by the Pathways Program in 2021-2022 – and only some of the life-changing support it provided. Because of the program, people were able to find support and answers, make connections with community services and government programs, build skills and confidence, and plan for a stronger future.

Demand for Pathways continues to rise as pandemic restrictions lift. People want and deserve to re-establish control in their lives after upheaval and uncertainty, and re-engage with their community as active members, but much has changed. Pathways is vital for supporting people to navigate the new community and system landscape, make essential connections, and strengthen their self-determination, confidence, and hope.

Pathways relies on donations, fundraised dollars, and charitable grants. Community Living Huntsville plans to support another 10 people and families in 2022-2023, and pursue marketing initiatives for the program, such as printed materials and a promotional video, both of which were postponed in 2021-2022 due to pandemic restrictions.

Jennifer Jerrett, Community Engagement Specialist for Community Living Huntsville, says access to the program has made invaluable differences in people’s lives.

“Pathways has empowered people to explore and achieve their goals around life skills, social connections, education, employment, and more,” says Jerrett. “It has helped bolster people’s self-esteem and sense of community inclusion, which are integral not only to long-term feelings of dignity, value, and hope, but also strong communities. Thank you for your support.”

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