Contributed by Vania Huang

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The colder weather has ushered in the arrival of winter, and with it, the hints of the holiday season in the air. This time of year invites us to spend time with our families and loved ones and reflect upon the meaning of the season. We took this opportunity to visit the home of Gerald, Rob, Charlie and Jody, a family supported by our Shared Living service.

Their cozy house is nestled in a cul-de-sac in Coquitlam, where Rob and Gerald have welcomed a variety of individuals into their lives. Rob has been involved with posAbilities for nearly a decade and worked in residential homes in the past. Gerald tells us about his first experience with Shared Living, “Up until meeting Rob, I had never really socialized with anybody that was disabled. With Charlie and Jody, we do it because we care and we want to make a difference. That’s the bottom line. We’re just like a regular family with ups and downs.” He shares that he was diagnosed with cancer shortly after living with Rob and Charlie, and that the experience has opened his eyes to the struggles of living with a disability. “Charlie and I have a special bond because [he] went through that entire episode with me. Having been a rare form of lymphoma, it’s actually a miracle that I’m here. Charlie was always there for me as a form of support.” As Gerald expresses his gratefulness for their help in getting through this difficult time, it becomes increasingly evident that the family shares an incredible support system with one another.

Charlie has been living with Rob for almost eight years, and Jody is the newest addition to their home, having just settling into the house for a short week. Sign language is an important medium of communication, as Charlie is deaf; while Rob is a stronger signer, Gerald and Jody have learned and continue to pick up more of the language from their daily interactions with Charlie. Holiday tradition is of utmost importance in their household: Rob intends to decorate inside and out so that “it will look like Christmas puked in our house!” He and Gerald make sure each person’s family members are involved with everything that goes on in their lives by arranging time to see them. Jody makes weekly trips by herself on the bus to visit her mom in Surrey, and Charlie often spends time with his sister and her children. The four of them also have an exciting next few months planned, as they anticipate a trip to Las Vegas and going on a cruise!

Rob, Gerald, Charlie and Jody have come to not only share their physical space with one another, but also their lives. From making dinner together to chatting about their mutual interest in sports (“Go Canucks, go Lions!”), there is no doubt that this experience has brought them all closer together and enriched each of their lives.

Are you interested in sharing your home and life with a person who has a developmental disability? Do you have a diverse background in supporting adults with developmental disabilities, mental health challenges, and/or who are aging? Do you thrive on creating rich opportunities for developing natural relationships, expanding social circles and increasing a person’s experience of community life? We welcome individuals from all cultures, socio-economic groups and family structures. To learn more, please visit http://posabilities.ca/shared-living/ or contact us by calling 778-945-3368 or emailing sharedliving@posabilities.ca.