Vicky Levack lives with cerebal palsy and is the spokeswoman for the Disability Rights Coalition.
She has been living in a nursing home since she was 18 years old and is now 30.
The province told her because of her complex needs that she would have to be housed in an institution to receive proper care, even though that is not what she wanted for herself.
She has been advocating tirelessly for the past 10 years to have the freedom to live in the community, where she can regain her freedom and autonomy.
Last week, Levack got the call she has been waiting for. In a joint venture supported by the Department of Community Services and Health and Independent living, a pilot program starting in December will allow her to live in the community with help from a support worker.
The program will consist of two condos side by side, each housing two people who are currently living in long-term care.
“I cried and laughed at the same time. I was fluctuating though so many emotions at once,” she said.
“I thought I was going to die in here and never have a life outside of these walls. And now I will.”
Levack said her advocacy work for people living with disabilities has been her full-time job and journey for the past decade. Although this is a step in the right direction, she says there is still much work to be done.
“I feel like I won the battle but I haven’t won the war. Because make no mistake, there is a non-violent war going on for social justice,” she said.
She says she has felt lonely, desperate and terrified thinking she was going to die living in a nursing home. She says she survived mentally by acknowledging that every one has their hardships.
“I’ve made the best of a very bad situation. I felt I had no choice. I was very angry and sad. I thought to myself, I can either be angry, sad and mad for the next 60 years, or I can say, ‘everybody has got something,'” she explained.
Levack believes that because she didn’t stop bringing attention to her situation and continuously fought for her freedom that she has the opportunity to move into the community now. She says that many of her friends living with disabilities, are afraid to speak up.
“I deserve better. Not just me. We all deserve better. Many people I live with do not like it here but they feel that if they say anything that they will get less care,” she said.
Levack says she is excited to have her own kitchen, which she has always desperately wanted. She has already started an Amazon wish list with items for her new condo and plans to decorate her kitchen “funky, like from the 1960s.”
“I get to feel like an actual citizen, which is something I haven’t felt like for probably ever now that I think about it. I’ve acted as a citizen but I don’t feel I’ve been treated as one,” she said.
“I’ve heard people call this a gift. This is not a gift. This is something I deserve.”
She says she would like to see the program expand in the future and will not give up the fight until everyone with disabilities who choses to live in the community is able to do so.
She plans on starting a website with direct contact information and says she will help others to the best of her abilities.
In a statement provided to Global News by the Department of Community Services, the results of this pilot program will be evaluated and inform future program design.
Levack and her roommates can expect to be in their new home in late December of this year.
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