‘This house is open’: Man cuts ribbon to family home donated to Saint John of God so he can continue living there

House in Glenageary will provide community living for Ryan O’Hare and three others with intellectual disability

Cheers erupted as 41-year-old Ryan O’Hare cut the ribbon to inaugurate the community house in Glenageary, Co Dublin where he and three others with intellectual disabilities will live.

“This house is open,” said Ryan.

Years earlier, the O’Hare family had decided to donate their family home to Saint John of God (SJOG) Housing Association so their only child, Ryan, who grew up in the house, could continue to live there.

Although Ryan is fit and active, his mother, Teresa, said he requires 24/7 assistance.

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“As Ryan got older and I got older, it got extremely tough to care for him,” said Teresa. “I’m honoured and privileged to be able to donate the house.”

Teresa and her late husband, Tom, who died three years ago, bought the house in 1979 after returning to Ireland from Alberta, Canada. Its layout and size, in addition to its location in Glenageary, a suburb of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, first attracted the couple to the property.

Throughout the family’s life, SJOG has played a prominent role. Ryan has availed of the community services since he was a child, and Teresa worked as a nurse at the hospital.

The O’Hares decided that they wanted to give something back, after all SJOG had done for the family.

SJOG Community Services offers HSE-funded services to children and adults with intellectual disability, and to children, adolescents and adults with mental ill health. This can range from occasional emotional support to day-to-day benefits, depending on the individual.

“When I first heard that the O’Hare’s would donate their house, I was thrilled to bits. I was immediately thinking of who had the highest need to go into the house,” said Michelle Thunder, chief executive of the SJOG Housing Association.

Three other residents in day service with Ryan were deemed compatible and selected as housemates.

The four-bedroom detached house is located on a quiet street surrounded by similar homes.

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown provided funding for the building renovations and the HSE provided funding for staff. Two staff members work evenings and one remains overnight.

Renovations took about a year. The house is open and roomy, with lots of living space, which Ms Thunder said helps with behaviour issues. Several smaller rooms allow residents quiet areas. A second sittingroom on the upper floor permits families a spot to visit with their loved ones.

About 3,000 people with an intellectual disability in Ireland live with parents over the age of 70.

“It’s a looming crisis,” said Ms Thunder. “This is the first home we’ve gotten in the last 12-13 years for people who are living with ageing parents.”

The priority thus far has been transitioning those with intellectual disabilities based in institutional settings into community residential facilities.

Ms Thunder said many older parents worry what will happen to their children when they die. In some cases, when that has happened, individuals have been placed in a residential service on the other side of Ireland, far from any social network.

Although €29 million was allocated in the 2023 budget for disability services, that needs to cover residential, day services, clinical and early services for children.

Minister of State for Disability Anne Rabbitte officiated at the opening of the house. “This is unbelievable. The generosity shown by the O’Hare family cannot be put into words. It’s a sense of fulfilment for these families that their young person is sorted out with housing.”

Ms Rabbitte said when day services closed during Covid, many parents became full-time caretakers and soon realised they needed to have a plan in place for their child’s future.

In general, she said that local communities need to do more. “Each community needs to set aside housing to ensure people with disabilities are provided for as part of the planning process.”

Meanwhile, Ryan is elated that he can remain in his childhood home. He has moved into the master bedroom and proudly walks to visit his mother, who lives nearby.