Deohaeko Support Network is a group of families who came together in 1989 to think about and plan for good lives for our young adult sons and daughters. DEOHAEKO…refers to the name given to the Spirit Supporters of Life. It pays homage to aboriginal people who occupied this area since before the coming of the Europeans.
We began by thinking about where they would live in the near future – what kind of place would they come to call home and what it might look like. We thought about how our sons and daughters might live in much the same ways that their siblings were choosing to live. We knew that we wanted our sons and daughters to live in homes that were truly their own – safe, secure, unique and welcoming dwellings from which they would lead lives fully engaged in their communities in a variety of ways and in relationship with many other people who they came to know and who would appreciate their gifts and contributions.
After much research and discussion, we had a good idea of the kind of welcoming, typical place we thought would work best. We took advantage of a federal-provincial government cost-sharing arrangement to design and have built Rougemount Co-operative in Pickering Ontario.
And so, in 1994, Rougemount Co-operative Homes, Inc. became a housing co-operative envisioned, planned and brought to reality by this small group of Durham Region families who wanted to ensure a future for each of our sons and daughters with a disability within the heart of a welcoming community. Rougemount is a 6-storey, 105-unit housing co-operative. Couples, singles, young families, and elders of many cultures, abilities and backgrounds live together in a housing co-operative where they contribute in many different ways. Rougemount was built to meet the housing needs of over 200 people and to “house” the founding families’ vision of a community that would, intentionally, be welcoming.
What was most important to Deohaeko’s founding families was that it be a diverse community where people intentionally seek out ways to be good neighbours to one another. This intentional community is at the heart of life at Rougemount. It is a shared responsibility, in which our sons and daughters take an equal part and, therefore, have been instrumental in the conception and design of the building and its community. They encompass a range of enthusiasms, interests, skills and gifts which they bring generously to the life of the co-operative. This active, diverse and supportive community provides a rich environment and varying levels of natural, freely given relationship, in which each person can achieve their hopes and dreams and pursue interests important to them as an active, participating and contributing member of their community.
For our sons and daughters, and for ourselves, Rougemount is not a residential option. It is home. It is where people are hosts in their own home, co-operative members with rights and responsibilities, and good neighbours to one another. There is no support service within the building, and no office for Deohaeko Support Network. Supporters work directly with people in their homes and in the communities, providing support in the events of their daily lives. Coordinators connect with people and families in their homes by invitation, and in their communities whether that be in places of paid work, volunteering, recreation or local establishments.
Deohaeko Support Network then, became the incorporated organization, governed by families, which exists to consciously think about how the sons and daughters of the founding families might best be supported to fully participate in the events and activities of their own lives within Rougemount and the broader communities. Deohaeko’s Board is separate from the Rougemount Board but includes seven of the founding Deohaeko families who envisioned and designed Rougemount. The Deohaeko Board of Directors is made up of the parents or designated family/friends of the now eleven members.
Our story is not about the co-operative, although this is a very nice place to live. It is about the capacity of families to be creative and innovative, to have a vision and follow it through. Families need the resources and flexibility to create and innovate. In this way, people will end up with a wide range of places to live within their communities in good ways. Let there be as many options as there are people.
In the spring of 2015, four new families joined the Deohaeko Support Network. In the Deohaeko spirit of sharing what has been learned with others and an openness to learning from others what they have to share, this expanded group of now 11 families began to get to know each other and move forward together. The sons and daughters of these new board members are exploring what home and community life might mean for them now and into the future. With the board being comprised of a combination of founding members and new members, there is great opportunity for a wonderful balance of wisdom, energy and shared creativity.
Our shared process is about intentionally exploring, discovering and developing the abundance within our communities no matter where one lives. We all need faith in the presence and possibility of such a community and a principled, relevant and reliable approach with strategies to keep us there.