Greg and Michael’s story: building a home and a family

A huge smile appears across Greg’s face. He points to Michael and says, “This is my friend.”

Michael is everyone’s big brother. He’s always looking after his housemates. And if you ever need a cup of coffee, Michael is your barista.

“That’s Michael. He’s very friendly. He looks after everyone,” Michael Henein says, who’s managed this group home for people with disability for 15 years.

He continues, “Michael and Greg, they are very close.”

Michael and Greg have lived together for 12 years. Michael first moved into Wesley Disability Accommodation’s residence in Glenmore Park 15 years ago. Then three years later, Greg came along. But it’s not just the two of them. Together they share a house with three other men.

“They do take care of each other. One likes to make afternoon tea for everyone. Another one does laundry. So they work as a family,” Mani says, Manager Wesley Disability Accommodation – Canterbury.

 The word ‘family’ best describes this household. Together, all five men have built a strong bond, just like siblings. “They like to do most things together,” Mani explains.

All five men live with disability. Their home is purpose-built to support their range of needs including down syndrome, bipolar disorder, intellectual disability, behavioural needs and mental health concerns.

“We help them in their day-to-day goals,” Mani says. “That involves personal care, showering, assisting them make dinner or lunches and providing them transport to their day programs or work.”

Both Michael and Greg are proud of their home. The moment you step through their front door, they’ll take you on a guided tour.

Michael excitedly shows off his own space. Next to Michael’s bedroom is his very own lounge room. It’s his favourite room. It comes with a built-in kitchen, and of course, a TV. Every night, Michael sits in his lounge room and watches his favourite show, Home and Away.

Greg too is eager to show off his bedroom, or more importantly, his expansive DVD collection. His cupboard is jam-packed with DVD folders. Folder by folder, Greg flicks through his collection and marvels at his prized DVDs. From Disney classics to Star Wars, you name it, Greg has it.

Both Michael and Greg recently celebrated their birthdays. One-by-one Greg pulls out his birthday presents, including Star Wars figurines and a nerf gun. Greg pretends to fire his nerf gun but quickly assures everyone, “It’s just a toy”. Michael proudly shows off his new watch.

And Matthew, their housemate, drops by Greg’s bedroom, gives a friendly wave and admires Greg’s figurines before returning to his room.

In early 2020, this family’s home was renovated to provide them with additional space. Their lounge room was expanded, each room received a fresh coat of paint, modern wardrobes were installed and new flooring.

A fifth bedroom was also added so they could welcome a new family member. While he’s only been there a few months, Mani says he’s thriving in his new environment.

“He said to me, ‘I really like it here. I want to live here for a long time’,” Mani shares.

While the three-month renovations took place, this family moved into a temporary residence nearby before moving back home in March 2020. While a comfortable home away from home, they all agree, they prefer their refurbished house.

“This one’s better,” Michael says.

But it wasn’t the home coming they expected. While they marvelled at the renovations, COVID-19 put a temporary pause on their daily routines. But as a family, they adapted. And thanks to the renovations, there was more space to enjoy while they waited for the restrictions to ease.

Michael is now back at work four days a week, packaging boxes. And Greg says he’s happy he can resume his shopping trips, as long as he gets to ride in his family’s red van.

While our purpose-built homes support people with disability, it’s our staff who really make the difference. Mani, Michael Henein and the team are passionate about helping their residents reach their daily goals, so they become more independent and ultimately, thrive.

Sitting in their living room, Greg turns to Michael Henein and says, “Michael, I feel happy that you’re here with me.”

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