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Lack of government funding leaves B.C. double amputee struggling

A disabled Langley woman may have to wait until next spring to get a ramp for her trailer built, after a provincial aid program ran out of money before she finished her paperwork.

Jean Moulton is a double amputee, with one prosthetic leg and one hand.

Last spring, she sold an apartment in Langley City and moved to a manufactured home in the Cedar Creek Estates park in South Brookswood.

Moulton, who lost her limbs to blood clots following a workplace injury, thought a mobile home would be a better option for her than a second-floor apartment.

“If there was a fire, with me being on the second floor, I couldn’t go down 30 stairs,” Moulton said.

She had just four steps at her new place, but wanted to have ramps installed so she could use a scooter or wheelchair for easy access and safety. She also wanted some internal ramps for two rooms that are down a step inside her home.

Moulton applied to Home Adaptations for Independence (HAFI), a BC Housing program that funds modifications for low-income B.C. residents with mobility or health issues.

HAFI will fund up to $20,000 in renovations or modifications that address disabilities – alterations to bathrooms, ramps, doors, walkways, lowering light switches, and other changes.

However, once the year’s funding pool is gone, it’s gone.

“HAFI applications for the current fiscal year are now closed as the funding has been fully allocated for 2018/2019 fiscal year,” says the BC Housing website.

Moulton had spent months completing the required paperwork. She said it took four months of waiting before an occupational therapist could come to visit her new home and conduct an inspection. BC Housing requested more paperwork as late as Aug. 1.

Then on Aug. 20, she was told funding for the year was gone.

The earliest new applications will be accepted is next April 2019.

“It’s a lot of work that I put into it,” a frustrated Moulton said.

Now she’ll have to start over next spring and apply again.

The lack of ramps leaves her very carefully navigating her front steps every time she needs to get in and out of her home, using her prosthetic leg. It takes four minutes to get down four steps, and about eight minutes to get out of her house completely.

She moved to be safer in case of a fire, but if one struck now, she would be unable to use a wheelchair to get out quickly. Moulton would have to get her entire prosthetic leg strapped on first.

“It takes me too long to get the liner on and get out the door,” she said.

She’s also worried about winter, and the affect of snow and ice.

Zosia Ettenberg, president of the Langley Pos-Abilities Society, said that while HAFI has helped many people – she has used the program – it definitely needs more funding.

“They don’t have enough money to cover all the projects,” Ettenberg said. “The people who are in the know get their applications in at the very beginning of the year.”

But that leaves people who don’t get the funding waiting for months, as there are no other government programs that do the same work.

Ettenberg is planning to contact local service organizations such as the Rotary Clubs and Soroptimists, to see if they can donate. The Pos-Abilities Society can do the work for Moulton, if a donation can be found.

HAFI had an annual budget of $5 million a year. Funded jointly by the provincial and federal government, the program has now expired and is expected to be replaced with a new program next spring.

At this point, BC Housing representatives could not say how much funding will be available in the new program, but said applicant forms are being saved to attempt to make the process smoother for people like Moulton who are applying again.

Matthew Claxton

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