We Come Bearing Gifts

Janet Klees

Presence, Peace, Welcome, Courage, Challenge, Honesty, Enthusiasm, Ever hoping, Discovery … and I ask you, are these not gifts needing, required, welcomed by any thoughtful, growing community?

This book is a story. It is a story of the achievements, struggles, and successes of a group of twelve families who joined together in a common mission in the fall of 1989. In order to achieve their vision of a positive future for their sons and daughters who have a disability, these families designed and built a 105-unit co-operative housing apartment building where ten of the daughters and sons could live.

It is the intention of the founding families and members of the co-operative that the community strive to be one which welcomes and includes all of its members in the life of the co-operative and where neighbours come to know and support one another.

In writing this book, Janet Klees has laid out patterns and order that the families discovered in the midst of seeming chaos. It would be a mistake to believe that they planned out the patterns and organized their ideas and beliefs before embarking on the various parts of this venture. In fact, this is an account in progress of a living and breathing community. Many of the patterns that Klees describes, or the order that the families discerned them, could only be identified in retrospect. The day-to-day work of this group and of this burgeoning community involves much imperfection, stress, and “muddiness”. It is, after all a very human endeavour. As John McKnight, well known community builder and professor at Chicago’s Northwestern University, has noted, building community is different from professional-client relationships, and in the “community mold [things are] messy, creative, but with a capacity to both offer and receive the gift of hospitality.”

228 pages, 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 inches, ISBN 1-895178-33-X, $20 ebook, $25 paperback

Table of Contents


Chapter 1 In the Beginning …

Chapter 2 Thoughtful Living

Chapter 3 History – Where We’ve Come From and Who We Are

Chapter 4 Relationships and Natural Support

Chapter 5 Paid Support

Chapter 6 Helping Others Apply Our Beliefs

Chapter 7 Support Circles

Chapter 8 Funding and Money Matters

Chapter 9 Sharing Our Story

Chapter 10 Planning for the Future: Families Think Ahead



A Summary of Important Concepts

Intentional Community

A community which strives to be thoughtful about welcoming and including all of its members,

Which allows for the contribution and recognition of the gifts and talents of all of its members;

And a way of life that involves relationship and commitment to others based on valuing gifts and similarities over deficits and differences.

Paid Support

People who are paid to offer assistance or support of some kind to an individual.

Natural Support

People who provide assistance or support to an individual on an informal, unpaid basis.

Natural support may be arranged by asking but is freely and willingly given.


When people find the wonder and beauty in one another;

May develop in a paid support arrangement but more likely to blossom outside of that arrangement and with others in mutual and equal circumstances;

May grow to include providing significant level of support to the individual;

The opportunity for relationship-building may be offered, but the growth of relationship between two people is spontaneous and personal.

Paperback Edition Available

Our Presence Has Roots

Janet Klees

“Being rooted in community is all about belonging – the eternal human quest that gives life meaning and value. We have come to see that in some situations belonging does not just happen; the pathway to belonging needs to be rebuilt.”

This is the ongoing story of what an active and committed group of ordinary families can achieve for, and with, their adult sons and daughters who have a developmental disability.

This 366-page book is the account of the past eight years of Deohaeko Support Network. The many stories, examples, and quotations throughout the book ensure that the content remains relevant and interesting to families, service providers, and anyone in the community services field. As well, this book will appeal to all those interested in building thoughtful, welcoming communities and neighbourhoods.

At the heart of this book is the belief that relationships (more than services, programs, or financial resources) will best safeguard the lives of people with disabilities over time. Through stories and analysis of proven strategies, this book speaks directly to family, friends, and community builders of all kinds as it outlines ways to think about, invite, welcome and nourish relationship in the lives of people with disabilities. Its chapters describe a context from which the opportunity for relationship may thrive, including the importance of place (home, the housing co-operative, the wider community), of holding valued social roles in community, and of being present with other typical citizens with good support. Building this context becomes the work of people with disabilities and their allies. Our presence has roots also details the family group’s work and thinking about building supports and safeguards that will ensure good futures for their sons and daughters. A written set of guiding principles, detailed sections on effective coordinator and supporter roles, and an honest accounting of the uncertainties of the future provide readers with much to think about, adapt for their own situation, and build on in other contexts.

Rooted in the garden of lived experiences and shared stories (an analogy used by the author in this beautiful book), Janet Klees reveals to us in thoughtful detail the fundamental principles and values that have guided the processes for people to live well in their own homes and in community. The book will serve as an “essential read” for anyone striving to be with people who otherwise would be marginalized. Our Presence Has Roots takes us to “a place of hope – where in the middle of imperfection – potential runs deep and possibility strong.” [quote from a poem by Janet] – Peter Dill, Teacher, Mentor and Community Leader

Deohaeko is an unusually principled small group of families and people with disabilities who have created and govern their own person centred, socially inclusive supports that essentially enables each person and family to design and oversee their own unique “supports” solution and personal lifestyle. The quality of what they have produced is quite impressive. It is their lengthy and principled track record and experience that is instructive, as they have been doing this for years, and have largely remained faithful to very high principles. I would not want to put them on a pedestal, or suggest that they live in an easy world, as this would be a discredit to how hard all this has been for them. Nonetheless, it is hard to point to a group anywhere that would have done better with these challenges than they have. – Michael J. Kendrick Ph.D., International Consultant and Writer

366 pages, 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 inches, ISBN 1-55307-017-8, $20 ebook, $25 paperback

Table of Contents


Section 1 Cultivating the Soil

Chapter 1: An Update

Chapter 2: Philosophy at the Foundation

Section 2 A Growing Sense of Belonging

Chapter 3: Home is the First Place

Chapter 4: Tending to Relationship

Chapter 5: A Greater Sense of Place

Section 3 Tools, Strategies, Ideas to Work the Soil

Chapter 6: How People Live Their Lives

Chapter 7: Building a Context for Relationship

Chapter 8: Supportive Allies

Section 4 Over Wintering in Preparation for the Spring Ahead

Chapter 9: Safeguarding

Chapter 10: Dancing in the Garden of Life

Postscript – In Gratitude




Paperback Edition Available