Local Build Nov. 01, 2019

A safe and accessible Habitat home for Brianne and her son

When Brianne’s son Brayden was about three months old, she noticed he wasn’t reaching developmental milestones like sitting or holding his head up on his own. After being referred to London Children’s Hospital he was diagnosed with a rare condition called cyclin-dependent kinase-like 5 (CDKL5) and will require care for the rest of his life. Now in his teens, Brayden is wheelchair-bound and non-verbal and entirely dependent on his mother and out of home programs for his day-to-day care.

As Brayden grew, Brianne realized caring for him in the rented four-level back split she shared with her sister would become increasingly difficult, and dangerous for them both.

“I was carrying him up the stairs going, ‘Please don't drop him, please don't drop him’,” said Brianne. “We were getting to the point where I could not safely do this anymore.”

But there were few accessible, single-floor homes available for rent and of those that were available and affordable, most would require some retrofits. The cost of any retrofits would likely have to come out of Brianne’s pocket and they would require permission from the landlord. While there was a greater availability of apartments, Brianne worried that if she were to rent a tenth-floor apartment she wouldn’t be able to carry Brayden down the stairs in an emergency.

“You just got frustrated looking for something to suit your needs and never being able to find it.”

Brianne had already started saving for her own house, but market prices had increased dramatically, putting her dream of a safe and accessible home for her and Brayden even further out of reach.

When her stepdad suggested she apply to Habitat for Humanity, Brianne hesitated, unsure if she qualified and worried maybe someone else might need a home more. Finally realizing that the worst they could tell her was no, she decided to apply.

Brianne and Brayden were approved to purchase a Habitat home in April 2019.

When they called her in to the Habitat for Humanity Heartland Ontario office to tell her, she wasn’t sure what to expect.

“I remember leaving and I got in my car and I drove out and I left. Then I pulled into the next parking lot and I called my mom. I'm like, "Mom." She's like, "Yeah?" And I'm like, "I got it."”

Partnering with Habitat Heartland Ontario meant Brianne was able to buy her home with a no down payment, no interest, affordable mortgage geared to be no more than 30 percent of her income. More importantly, Habitat Heartland Ontario worked with Brianne and accessibility experts to determine what changes needed to be made to the design of the house in order to better accommodate Brayden’s needs. Brianne and Brayden’s new Habitat home is a bungalow with a ramp up to the side door, and wider hallways and doors to accommodate Brayden’s wheelchair. It is also retrofitted with tracking that helps safely lift Brayden up and down in the living room and his bedroom.

The retrofits offer Brianne the peace of mind to know she won’t be hurting herself or Brayden.

“I just feel like I'm happier. I'm not as stressed. I'm not as worried… I can breathe. Breathing is good.”