Making A Home: Assisted Living in the Community for Young Disabled People by Jen Powley

I was 37 when I first visited a nursing home with the thought, "Could I live here?"

For many of us, the choice of where we call “home” is taken for granted, especially in a world primarily and exclusively designed for able-bodied individuals. Moreover, I would contend that the decision to enter into a nursing home – which is focused on supporting the act of “dying well” – is not something we entertain for ourselves in our young and middle adulthood, still focused on living.

Yet this is the stark reality that faces many young adults living with disabilities, who are frequently not well supported or accommodated by the current infrastructure, and who are instead asked to simply (and inappropriately) fit into existing structures for convenience’s sake.

This is the impetus for Jen Powley’s second book – a frank and clearly written account of her quest to create quality community-based housing for young adults living with disabilities such as herself, and who are often seen as “broken because they do not conform to the ideals of the medical model“.

With the seemingly simple thought that, “Maybe we needed to start a new group home“, Powley shares her proposal and roadmap for how she forged a path forward for herself and three others in Halifax. Her words – always candid and at times, laced with humour – share both the frustration in convincing government and community that a new solution was needed, and the determination to make a new home a reality.

I don't think many people have the privilege of becoming disabled early in life; a lot of people seem to think you are either born with a disability or get to live your life free of it until you are "old". But disability is persistent, and it lurks around every corner.

As a currently able-bodied individual, I haven’t had to think about the details Powley generously shares in this recent work, but am richer for knowing them now. With the other option for Powley and others living in similar circumstances to sacrifice what so many of us take for granted – the right to self-determination, independence, quality of life – Powley makes it clear that her proposal was the only ever logical solution.

And, as it did for me, it may leave you wondering why any other conclusion was considered in the first place.

About the Author

Jen Powley was born in Alberta, moved to Halifax for university and stayed. An author by circumstance, she wrote Just Jen: Thriving Through Multiple Sclerosis, which won the 2018 Margaret and John Savage First Time Author Nonfiction Book Award. Powley has completed a BA, an after-degree in journalism, and an MFA in Creative Non-Fiction at the University of King’s College.