New apartments provide dignity for MS sufferers

MS sufferer, Robbie Carr with his mum and full-time carer, Heather Roman.
MS sufferer, Robbie Carr with his mum and full-time carer, Heather Roman. NATASCHA SCHWARTZ

IMAGINE one day working on an aged care facility in perfect health to find out the next day you yourself may have to go into an aged care facility for the rest of your life.

That was the reality for Multiple Sclerosis sufferer Robbie Carr who was diagnosed with the condition in 2007.

In an ironic turn of events the then 28 year-old had been working on an aged care facility as a builder when his life and the life of his family was dramatically turned on its head.

"I was a healthy and fit young carpenter and spent most of my working life building homes for the elderly and people with disabilities," he said.

"After I was diagnosed our whole family left our house in Brisbane as it was unsuitable for my changing needs and even my sister and her three children moved in so they could share caring for me.

"I can't go anywhere on my own now because I often forget where I'm going."

Robbie's mum, Heather Roman said the experience had changed the way her whole family saw life and just wanted for her son to be able to live a comfortable life in accommodation that suited his needs.

"If there's one thing I have always fought for, it is Robbie's dignity," she said.

"What Robbie really wants is a home of his own where he can ask for help without the guilt of asking me or his sister to support him.

"He also just wants his own space with the comfort of knowing that there are professionals nearby that know him and his needs."

Such is the case for many MS sufferers around Queensland which has prompted MS Queensland to come up Project Dignity 120, a specialist disability accommodation project which will see 120 new high-need independent living apartments across 10 locations, including regional communities, developed over the next 10 years.


Springfield Land Corporation CEO-CBD Development David Henry, Kane Construction Queensland director David Rutter, MS Queensland CEO Lincoln Hopper and Springfield Land Corporation deputy chairman, Bob Sharpless.
Springfield Land Corporation CEO-CBD Development David Henry, Kane Construction Queensland director David Rutter, MS Queensland CEO Lincoln Hopper and Springfield Land Corporation deputy chairman, Bob Sharpless. Rob Williams

The first apartment building for the project topped off its first block at Springfield today and MS Queensland CEO Lincoln Hopper said the milestone marked the start of a positive future for many MS sufferers.

"Sadly we're in the grip of a housing crisis, so if you have a disability and you need this type of housing, there's simply not enough available so we've got people asking us to build this as fast as we can and our mission to build 120 is really a response to that," Mr Hopper said.

"Last count there were just under 1300 people aged under 65 living in residential aged care, so if that's a symbol of the size of the problem we're taking a step into the future and doing that for 120 people at least.

"We call this Project Dignity 120 for a really obvious reason and we're hoping that this restores dignity, independence, choice and control over their circumstances and that's probably one of the greatest things we can do and that will change over time for them.

"For the younger people especially that will mean they can get back into life, employment, community and family, so we're really excited about the exceptional future hat the bricks and mortar provide.

"Today we're here celebrating the construction of that, but are hoping that this building actually leads to the construction of a fantastic outcome for these people at the same time."

Kane Construction Queensland are the company responsible for building the site and Queensland director David Rutter said it was an honour for he and his staff to be involved in helping build a positive future for those in need.

"We're an institutional builder so do a range of buildings for health and government, so this is right up our alley," Mr Rutter said.

"We enjoy the challenge of this job because it's not just an apartment block, the technology we're putting into it is really exciting and this whole building is really a prototype for MS Queensland, so we've been through the design phase with them, working out what their clients' needs are and us saying what we can do to make it work," Mr Rutter said.

"A lot of our staff relish doing a job with this sort of purpose, whether it be building a school or hospital or aged care and you can see how it is improving peoples' quality of life, so as a business the staff enjoy it and it adds more value and meaning to what you do, it's hugely important."

Springfield Land Corporation CEO for CBD Development, David Henry said the new building was a significant step towards building Springfield's Health City precinct and providing more jobs for the region.

"It's the start of specialist housing based around Health City, so MS and a whole lot people through the NDIS scheme, particularly in Queensland, there's a huge shortage of suitable accommodation for people with those sorts of life threatening issues," Mr Henry said.

"This is the first type of this kind of project and we're very fortunate to be the first in Queensland and for this to be based at Health City in Springfield.

"It will also mean more jobs and will build the momentum for the project as well as bring other allied health practitioners to the area which is another benefit for us."

This week marks National Disability Week and highlights issues effecting people with a range of disabilities across the country.

Project Dignity 120 Springfield is located at 14 Wellness Way, Springfield and is estimated to finish by April 2018.

Topics:  health city housing crisis ms queensland national disability week project dignity 120 springfield

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