You may recall reading one of our blogs published in 2013 about Tracie Sheppard, a content and independent young woman who described herself as the queen making all the rules in her home. For many years, Tracie lived independently in a rented house across the street from The Treehouse and developed her own routine with supports as she needed. Tracie was happy then and she’s even happier since another of her dreams has been realized.
For years, Tracie was aware of talks around Semiahmoo House Society (SHS) of an eventual housing option that would bring together people with developmental disabilities and other members of the community in an inclusive and affordable building. Relishing the idea of living in an apartment and having her friends as neighbours, she apprised her mother, Marie Sabine, of her desire to live in one of the units once the development was finished. It took several years for the board and leadership of SHS to work out the details and take the project from concept to reality, but she remained patient while keeping a close eye on the evolution of the project.
Finally one morning, she observed from her living room window heavy machinery beginning the process of demolishing old houses on a number of lots adjacent to The Treehouse and preparing the site for the construction of a fresh new mid-rise building. Determined that this would become the site of her future home, she enlisted the assistance of her mother and staff to complete the necessary application and reserve one of the apartments in the housing project that would be later called Chorus.
Tracie eagerly watched Chorus go up stage by stage until the development was complete and her one-bedroom apartment was ready to move in. Meanwhile, she happily went shopping for new furniture, including a futon and a lingerie dresser that would properly suit her bedroom that she decorated in a bright and cheerful yellow. This was an exciting time for her as she was fully involved in furnishing and decorating her new home.
When the big day arrived, she received help from her mother Marie and her aunt Helen to move her belongings and set things up. In spite of a few stubbed toes and bruises, the day ended well with the three women clinking together their wine glasses to toast Tracie’s new digs.
It took a little while for Tracie to get accustomed to using the elevator and greeting people in the hallways, but after nearly a year of living at Chorus, she feels safe and happy to be surrounded by friendly neighbours, including 20 of her friends who have apartments throughout the structure. In addition, she loves the convenience of walking anywhere including to her favourite shops, restaurants and cinemas.
To ensure a successful transition to independent living, SHS hired employees that are dedicated to supporting the 21 people with developmental disabilities in a person-centered way, providing assistance in the areas that they need and want the most. Although, Tracie is not new to living on her own, Marie is very happy with her daughter’s new environment. “The Chorus support staff have been great,” said Marie. “Tracie is doing better than ever and she’s even learning to cook fantastic meals.”
Tracie has done very well in accomplishing her personal goals and living the life that she wants. She is a trailblazer and an example of possibility. Her vision, courage, patience, perseverance and leadership have been an inspiration for all of us. As we speak, she’s probably lounging on her fourth-floor balcony, admiring the magnificent view of the North Shore Mountains and overlooking the soothing building that she knows as The Treehouse, with a smile that says it all.
By Louise Tremblay, The Semiahmoo Foundation
Semiahmoo House Society, a non-profit organization located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to provide quality services and supports to people with disabilities and their families in the community. The Semiahmoo Foundation exists to fund, support and enhance the programs and services delivered by Semiahmoo House Society. Chorus is an inclusive and affordable house development owned by Peninsula Estates Housing Society, an affiliate society to Semiahmoo House Society. The Treehouse is the beautiful post and beam building on 24th avenue where Semiahmoo House Society conducts many of its programs.