At age 36, Matthew Brown has lived his adult life in special care homes.
In talking with friends, he decided he wanted to find a job and, for the first time, live on his own.
With the support of Inclusion New Brunswick, he’s making strides into that journey today – with an optimistic outlook and a determination to forge an independent life for himself, on his own terms.
“I am excited,” Matthew says from his hometown Bathurst, where he currently lives in an assisted living facility with seniors and others with disabilities. “It will make a big difference.”
When Cameron McLean, a Social Inclusion Co-ordinator with Inclusion New Brunswick, first met Matthew last summer, he recognized him from years past when Matthew sold newspapers outside a local coffee shop.
“He’s well known by folks around town,” Cameron says. “He’s a very motivated person – always has been.”
Cameron has been helping Matthew navigate the journey to independent living. Part of that has been helping Matthew apply for a rent subsidy through NB Housing so he can afford an apartment of his own.
Another part has been helping Matthew prepare for this new future, so that Matthew understands what he can do, how to advocate for himself and what he needs help with.
For Matthew, the prospect of charting his own life is exciting and liberating.
“Living on my own will make a big difference. I won’t have anybody next to me saying ‘You can’t do this, you can’t do that, you can’t go out unless you ask.’”
In many ways, Cameron says, Matthew is over supported. Together they have been working on building his independence through Inclusion New Brunswick’s Social Inclusion Program.
The program centres around the philosophy of “just enough support.” It recognizes the importance of finding the right balance between natural support from people such as family and friends and other available support such as community-based programs and services, technology and other assistance.
The purpose of this approach is to build bridges and help the person expand their social relationships, personal autonomy and greater independence.
Cameron and Matthew have been working together to build these.
“I’m seeing a lot of growth there in terms of a person solving his own problems,” Cameron says.
At the same time, Matthew has been working with Inclusion New Brunswick’s Employment Counsellor Nancy Nolet to secure a part-time job. She helped him to put his resume together and to prepare for a job interview at the local Giant Tiger.
“Oftentimes in my work, a lot of people are struggling with their confidence. Matthew is a breath of fresh air – he knows what he wants,” Nancy says. “He got the job right away, so it was really incredible for him.”
Matthew started off stocking shelves, often working in the grocery aisle or in the warehouse.
He has been growing his responsibilities and his hours since. He always brings a smile to the job, says store manager Duane Chiasson, and shows up early for shifts.
“We celebrate his successes and he’s diligent with constructive criticism,” Duane says. “He’s a model employee.”
Matthew beams when he talks about the job.
“The staff is good to me, I have a good boss,” he says. “I love it.”
And he can’t wait for the day he lands a rent subsidy so he can move into an apartment of his own.
Inclusion New Brunswick works with Matthew and others to find a place to help them find inclusive housing where individuals have the right to decide where, with whom, and how they live. Inclusive housing options are dispersed and create mixed-income neighbourhoods.
Inclusive housing provides everyone with the opportunity to live the life they want – the life they choose. People with a disability must be directly involved in planning and selecting their housing along the wrap-around support services they need.
Matthew is excited about the future ahead.
“The help Cameron and Nancy are giving me is changing my life. If I didn’t have their help, I would still be stuck,” he says. “I am blessed that I have them on my side. I am very lucky.”