Real Estate Prices are ridiculously expensive in Trinidad. An average small house (Nothing fancy) in an average neighborhood is over $TT1.5 million (Over US$230,000). It is no wonder why so many Trinidadians apply to HDC (Housing Development Corporation) and have no choice but to rent and be subjected to unscrupulous landlords or have to put up with noisy or rude neighbours. Add to the whole equation that you have a child with autism or in my case, three. Yes, we rent unfortunately. Like a lot of people, we are unable to afford the high prices of local real estate.
When you rent, if you are very lucky to get a place because most landlords do not want children (Autistic or not), the house you are living in is not yours so you are not free to do as you please. For every change you attempt to make or think to make, you need the authorization of your landlord. But how do you deal with the fact that periodic adjustments need to be made in order to keep up with the changing needs of your special needs children?
You might have to make a hole here or there to put a barrier, to adjust a certain door, to close up the kitchen, to safeguard the stairs area or a balcony and the list goes on. You see, places for rent are not designed for autistics in mind. Jonah particularly gets into a lot of mischief around the house and there is no much we can do about it.
Because it is not your house, if the landlord decides he/she no longer wants you there, they can ask you to vacate the premises whenever they feel to. Then you have to "hunt" for another place to live and every time you do, you are putting your autistic kids under a lot of unnecessary stress because you all know how hard it is for them to deal with things like that. A house of their own could allow them to feel safe, secure and enable us to make the necessary adjustments to meet their needs.
Over the years, these are some of the things we read or heard:
1. Apply to HDC and just get whatever house they offer.
We applied ten years ago and when you have autistic kids, you just cannot take "Whatever" they offer. You need to take something that will benefit your children, a house is a place where you plan to stay for good. Going to an unsafe area serves no purpose but to make the situation worse. Going to remote areas also has no benefit since all the possibilities of schooling and therapy are located within certain areas.
2. Ask for a loan in the bank and purchase your own home.
We would do so if we could but let's face it, your average Trinidadian does not get $TT25,000 in salary every month in order to qualify for a mortgage.
3. Go and live with family members.
Say that again? You mean, take three special needs children and go to live by someone? Our kids have needs, special needs that not everyone understand or would be willing to put up with. That's not even a choice.
As parents, this is our number one goal right now. To get our own home so our boys can have that special place where they can feel safe and protected. We are not your average family and we are not asking for charity, we are just asking for an opportunity.