One Ontario family is breathing a sigh of relief after finding a safe place for their 19-year-old son with autism to live.
Susan Fentie-Pearce said her son Keith is highly intelligent. He is non-verbal and uses sign language to communicate.
But from a very young age, Keith’s difficulties led to aggression. As he grew older, the situation became increasingly dangerous, for everyone in the family, including Keith.
“I was being, you know, hit, punched, kicked, bruised, hair pulled out,” she said. “He’s broken his own nose I don’t know how many times.”
The family filled out reams of paperwork, trying to get Keith housing through the Ontario government.
But with about 14-thousand adults who have developmental disabilities on the wait list, it was futile.
Fentie-Pearce recounted with disbelief how their MPP even suggested they have Keith arrested and put in jail.
The tipping point came when Keith overpowered his dad but instead of jail Keith was taken to hospital.
“It was the beginning of a really difficult time. The doctor said, ‘You can’t take him home. No, you can’t, because it’s not safe,'” said Fentie-Pearce.
Instead he was transferred to the psychiatric Intensive Care Unit, and Keith’s mother took a desperate step to ensure he ended up with housing in the long term.
“I basically had to declare him homeless, because he can’t come home. He can’t come home to anybody’s house.”
The months dragged by, while Keith was kept in hospital and frequently restrained.
“One time he was locked up for 12 hours in restraints. I found out, we complained and raised a lot of hell. He speaks with his hands, how does he speak when his hands are tied?” said Dan Fentie, Keith’s dad.
They pointed out the government wasted a small fortune keeping Keith in hospital, when a residence would have been much cheaper.
“This is everybody’s problem. This isn’t just about my family,” said Fentie-Pearce.
Keith’s dad said after more than a year in the psychiatric unit, his son is finally in a safe residence with trained staff, where he needed to be all along.
“He’s in an unbelievable place right now, but he should have been there sooner. It shouldn’t have taken 12 months of being locked up in a room in handcuffs.”
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