Canada's first housing program for people with FASD opens in Edmonton
"This is my house, this is my own. It feels amazing," resident says.
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The three-storey walk-up has a tidy front lawn, a wide front step and a unique mandate. It's home to the first housing program for people with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder—believed to be the first of its kind in Canada.
Hope Terrace officially opened Friday, though it's been operating since just after Christmas. There’s enough room for 24 people, plus the staff who are on site to provide support specific to people diagnosed with FASD.
Casandra Maslyk, 20, has lived here since April. Sitting in her sunny living room she talks about how she likes to long board and hang out with her friends.
But before moving in she had bigger concerns — she’d been homeless for three years, constantly scrambling to find something to eat and a place to sleep. Now, she has a key to her own place, a roommate, and a community that understands the challenges of FASD.
“It took a couple of months to realize that I can call this my home and it was pretty emotional to me. Just one day I woke up and I was like, this is my house, this is my own,” she said.
“It feels amazing.”
The facility is a partnership between Homeward Trust and the Bissell Centre, with money coming from both the city’s Cornerstone Funding and the province.
Mayor Don Iveson was on hand for the official opening, pointing out that the housing first strategy is essential to tackling homeless, but supports are important too.
“It’s not just about money, its not just about a roof, it’s about inclusion,” he said.
Nine out of every 1,000 babies born in Canada have some form of FASD, an umbrella term used to describe a range of life-long disabilities.
There are about 50,000 Albertans who have been diagnosed — a number that Bissell Centre CEO Gary St. Amand says may actually be low.
“I think it is really is underdiagnosed, would be my suspicion and the experience our staff has working with vulnerable communities,” he said.
“This is an area where we need to invest and continue to understand this, in particular because it really is something that is preventable.”