Most fortnights for 15 years, Fiona Spence Thomas’s parents have driven from the Sunshine Coast to Brisbane to pick her up so she can spend the weekend with them.
When the weekend is over, they drive Fiona back to her supported accommodation in Brisbane. If the roads are clear, it amounts to eight hours of driving, just to spend quality time with their daughter.
Maureen and John Spence Thomas both turn 80 this year and, thanks to Endeavour Foundation’s landmark My Home, My Life initiative, those long weekend drives could soon be over.
Fiona and two other people will soon begin a trial in one of two new homes Endeavour Foundation has built at Tewantin, to see if they like living together.
Endeavour Foundation’s interim chief executive officer David Blower said the two fully accessible homes cost $1.8m, including land purchase.
“These homes will offer six people the opportunity to live independently on the Sunshine Coast at a time when housing costs are going through the roof,” Mr Blower said.
“It’s getting increasingly expensive to buy a home or find an affordable rental anywhere in Queensland and we know the Sunshine Coast is one of the most desirable places to live – that’s why we build so many Endeavour Lottery prize homes here.
“Just imagine how hard it is to find a suitable place to live on the Coast if you have a disability and need a home with accessible features near to your friends and family here.
“Sadly, people with disability often end up living in different parts of the state to their friends and family because they can’t find an affordable, safe and secure home nearby.
“That’s why we launched this accessible housing initiative last year, and are investing $45m over four years – the biggest investment in our 70 year history – to give people the choice to live in a suitable home, built where they want to live.”
Fiona Spence Thomas said living with people she likes and being near family were important to her.
“Just having two other people together with nice staff, and to perhaps be friends with the people who live there, and with the staff,” Ms Spence Thomas said.
“[Being near my mum and dad] will be good – going shopping, eating out, and spending time with my family.
“It’s where my family all live. I am looking forward to seeing the house and my room.”
Mr Blower said while Fiona and her future housemates were waiting for their NDIS funding applications to be approved before they could begin the trial living arrangement, offering people the chance to try living together first would help them decide if independent living was right for them.
“People have the right to choose where they live and who they live with,” Mr Blower said.
“It’s a big step in any person’s life when they leave home and we know many adults with disability find themselves living with ageing parents, who have played an important role as carers, but are now increasingly in need of support at home themselves.
“There aren’t enough independent living options available to Queenslanders with a disability because of a significant shortage of accessible housing, which is why these homes are so needed.”
Mr Blower said the homes were packed with accessible features and would meet the present and future needs of the people who will be living in them.
“Community inclusion is key so we’ve focused on developing homes that are centrally located; close to shops, transport, and services,” Mr Blower said.
“Our homes meet the Platinum Level of the Livable Housing Australia guidelines and are built above and beyond what is required by the NDIS.
“They include modern safety features such as help buttons in each bedroom, bathroom and living space, extra-wide corridors to accommodate wheelchairs if needed, and smart home ducted air-conditioning systems with individual room control.”