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By Jim Timlick

The new year is a time of new beginnings for many people.

That’s especially true in the case of Lyrissa. She is currently preparing to move out of her family’s home and into her own apartment for the first time. While Lyrissa admits she’s a little nervous about such a life-changing decision, she can’t wait to move into her new home on Feb. 1.

“I just felt like I wanted to be more independent,” says Lyrissa, who began discussing the idea of moving out on her own with her mom and dad about a year ago. “Being on my own I can learn to make my own decisions and learn from my mistakes.”

Lyrissa will receive plenty of help from family and friends with her upcoming move. She will also be supported throughout her move and with getting settled into her new home by Epic Opportunities and its Supported Independent Living (SIL) service.

The aim of SIL is to provide person-centred support to individuals living with an intellectual disability to live and work independently in the community. It differs slightly from other service streams offered by Epic Opportunities in that it is geared for people who are more independent and require fewer hours of support. There are currently 19 people enrolled in the SIL service.

As part of the service, Lyrissa has been working one-on-one with a Direct Support Worker to enhance basic life skills such as meal preparation, increase her understanding of how to use public transit, and gain knowledge of the support services that are available to her and how to access them.

As part of SIL’s person-centred approach, Lyrissa has also been working with Epic Opportunities staff to expand her social network and develop new friendships.

“A long time ago, I really struggled with depression,” she says. “Having lots of friends has helped me get over that.”

Lyrissa’s new home will certainly help in that regard. She has already made friends with several other women who live in the same apartment block and are supported through Epic Opportunities and SIL. In fact, they have been meeting semi-regularly for several months now for potluck meals and other get-togethers.

“I think that will help make it easier for me,” Lyrissa says of the new friendships she’s already developed. “I know who I can turn to if I ever have a problem.”

Service Development Coordinator Jennifer Welsh says stories like Lyrissa’s are one of the best indicators of success when it comes to the SIL service.

“I think it’s a natural progression for someone in their early 20s to mid-30s to want to move out on their own and feel empowered and have their own space and show they can make it on their own and gain new skills as an independent person,” Welsh says. “I think those are the things that make SIL a success.”

Lyrissa became involved in SIL about a year ago after someone at a day service she was attending told her and her parents, Marcella and Tom, about Epic Opportunities. After checking out several similar services, they decided Epic Opportunities was the best fit for their needs.

“She just felt very comfortable with the whole program,” Marcella says.

“They were just very helpful and understanding,” Lyrissa adds. “They really care about people and won’t put them in a place where they can be hurt or something bad will happen to them.

“I would recommend going through Epic to anyone if you want to get your own place or are thinking of moving out. They’re a very good, caring and trustworthy program.”

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