Unhoused seniors with disabilities struggle to find accessible housing in Kingston

After his wife died in April, 63-year-old Will Towell struggled to cover the rent on his own.

Towell, who uses a wheelchair, added his own accessible features to his home, but he says his landlord pushed him out when he fell behind on rent payments.

He’s been looking for housing ever since.

“I’m handicapped because I’m in this chair, but because I’m in this chair I’m handicap from renting,” Towell says.

“Basically the only places that have wheelchair accessibility are the high-rise apartment buildings, and their rents are outrageous.”

Read more: Kingston woman raises funds to buy a tiny home for a homeless man

Unfortunately, Towell’s story is not a unique one.

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Ronald Ritz is 73 years old and uses a walker to get around.

He stays around the Home Base Housing shelter with Towell, but hasn’t been able to get a bed yet due to capacity limits.

He says he’s been sleeping outside through thunderstorms, and has been trying to find accessible housing for a long time.

“I know there’s a better way,” says Ritz.

“People just can’t seem to see what we’re going through, and some of them don’t seem to care.”

Being unhoused and a senior with accessibility needs adds a layer of personal security issues.

Both men say they often get robbed of their belongings and go hungry as a result.

“I want to be me again,” says Towell.

“I don’t wanna be some bloody name or figure in a shelter somewhere.”

Read more: Kingston, Ont.-area United Way releases homelessness count numbers

Barry Shae, who is a double amputee, often gets help from bystanders calling 911 when he falls.

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“I just want to get out of the weather,” he says.

“I can’t deal with this no more. I’ve tried to take my life twice.”

Brenda Dean and her husband have called 911 for Shae before, because he had chest pains.

“I bring him some snacks at night, a blanket, more or less a conversation with Barry to keep him company,” says Dean.

Ruth Noordegraf, the City of Kingston’s director of Housing and Social Services, says there are support agencies like addiction and mental health services.

Read more: Prince Edward County housing crisis leaves locals with few options

But she also says there is a real issue with a lack of support for unhoused people with specific health needs, and the city is working to bridge that gap.

“Within our role as a city, and a service manager, we continue to honestly work on various housing projects to really address these needs,” she says.

In the meantime, unhoused people like Towell are urging others to spare some change and compassion while they continue to look for affordable housing.

If you would like to help or donate to their cause, you can visit their Facebook group.

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If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.

For a directory of support services in your area, visit the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.

Learn more about how to help someone in crisis here.

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