Special homes combine independence with support
Melissa and Carmel Robinson are not only sisters but best friends and housemates thanks to a ground-breaking disability housing project.
The pair have moved into one of two new purpose-built homes for women with intellectual disabilities in the Ryde area by Seton Villa, a work of the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul.
The homes provide residents with much greater independence, choice and control over their daily lives and are part of an $11 million investment plan by Seton Villa. Over the next three years, a further five custom-designed homes will be built to specialist disability accommodation design standards.
“We love our new home and I get to live with my sister who is my best friend” -Carmel Robinson
Melissa and Carmel live in the first of the new homes, called Rosalie’s Place, a five-bedroom home in Ryde with a semi-independent two-bedroom ‘apartment’ under the same roofline. It means that Carmel can share the apartment with flatmate Susie, and all three women had a say in the design including choosing their own furnishings and paint colours.
Along with Jenny’s Place, a four-bedroom home in Marsfield, it includes specially designed bathrooms and kitchens with ergonomic features, and smart technology to make the homes low-maintenance as well as comfortable.
For 18 years, the sisters have lived separately and now say they are the happiest they have ever been. “We love our new home and I get to live with my sister who is my best friend,” said Carmel at the homes’ official opening on 23 February.
“I love and adore my sister and now we get to cook and clean together, and even make pancakes on our BBQ in the morning. Our new home is colourful, bright, with beautiful gardens, great neighbours. It’s such a happy place and we get to hang out with our best friends.”
Their mother Glenys Robinson said the new home has given her and her husband Bruce “great peace of mind”.
“We’re not going to be around forever and one of our greatest concerns was what would happen with our daughters,” she said. “Now, with them living together in such a beautiful home and knowing they’ll be looked after, a weight has lifted off our shoulders while a home of their own gives them a feeling of security as well.”
Chief of Seton Villa Peter Gardiner said it was a trailblazer when it de-institutionalised disability care and opened its first shared homes in 1984.
“Our investment will secure a sustainable and bright future for the residents and community and it will serve our residents, our amazing team of carers, and the families and friends who actively support our broader community,” he said.
“We have a clear aim to expand our offerings over the next decade, including dedicated accommodation for males with intellectual disabilities, and this work is a vital springboard.”
The ceremony was attended by the NSW Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Gareth Ward, Member for Ryde Victor Dominello, and also included Mayor of Ryde Jerome Laxale, representatives of Seton Villa, and of the Daughters of Charity.
Designed by Kennedy Associate Architects, the homes’ open-plan design also enables the house managers and other staff to provide more active support but also to eventually step
back as the residents’ capabilities and skill develop.
“Our residents are becoming more independent – and this can transition out of the home, to when they’re in the community,” said Seton Villa house manager Sylvia D’Souza.