It is the big question for parents whose children have disabilities: “What will happen when we’re gone?”
What becomes of people with autism or Down’s syndrome once their parents die? Usually these individuals don’t have problems living an integrated life during their school years, but after? What becomes of them? Usually there is only one real option for people with disabilities after their parents die and that is to move to an assisted community. In Italy for some years now, also thanks to the law n. 112 of June 2016 that explicitly refers to “living autonomy”, various third sector organizations have been developing co-housing projects. Co-housing is a new approach that enables people who are not fully self-sufficient to live independent lives in small groups.
“On Sunday evenings, when I arrive at the apartment I see my friends. First I prepare the bed, after I make the dinner and prepare the breakfast for the morning,” explains Lorenzo, who, together with Erica and Matteo, is part of a co-housing project in the province of Vincenza. Promoted by the Associazione Contro l’Esclusione as part of the project Chiavi di Casa (house keys), the initiative involves three people aged in their thirties who have disabilities. Continues Lorenzo, “We take turns to prepare meals, to wash up, shower and do the cleaning. On Tuesdays we go to the gym. Sometimes we invite friends round for dinner or colleagues for tea.”
They are currently sharing the apartment on alternate weeks but the idea of the project is to give them the means to experience co-housing full-time. In spite of their disabilities, thanks to early intervention educational programmes, the youngsters developed a desire for their own autonomy and independence from their families. “Sometimes Giulia, the outreach worker comes to see what we’re doing,” explains Lorenzo, “and sometimes she brings her black cat Gastone.”