10/03/2012 08:07 EDT | Updated 12/03/2012 05:12 EST

Autistic man's parents fear son will be sent to streets

The Toronto-area parents of a developmentally disabled 19-year-old are facing the prospect of their son becoming homeless, after the province said it could no longer fund the young man's care at a respite facility.

Dennis and Lynn Reeve had for years raised their son, Joshua, in their Thornhill, Ont., home with regular respite care. But those support services — funded under Ontario's Children's Services — ended when Joshua turned 18.

No longer able to provide their adult son with the care he needed, the Reeves made the "gut-wrenching" decision last summer to place Joshua, who functions at a toddler level, in a respite facility.

"We were forced to the extreme to make that decision, because there's just — at least for Joshua — inadequate care otherwise," Dennis Reeve said.

But the family was told this week that the Ontario funding for his care at the facility is due to run out in just days, leaving Joshua with no place to go where he'll be guaranteed the treatment and services he requires.

'Can't be in a homeless shelter'

Lynn Reeve said she was told her child could be kicked to the curb unless his parents agreed to take him back, even though the costs and stress would likely overwhelm them.

"I was told they would put him in a cab and send him to the doorstep and I said: 'I'm sorry, he can't come home,'" she said. "Then I was threatened with: 'Then we'll send him to a homeless shelter.' Of course he can't be in a homeless shelter."

Joshua's mother and father said Joshua was born premature and also has autism.

"Walking out in the middle of the street, he has no idea that's dangerous and that he might be hit by a car, so he's totally incapable of caring for himself," Dennis Reeve said.

The Reeves' case is among 28 similar complaints flagged last year to provincial ombudsman André Marin, who raised the lack of support services for developmentally disabled adults as a growing concern in his annual report.

The family believes intervention by the ombudsman could be their last hope to finding a permanent placement for their child.

In the meantime, the Reeves are bracing to make difficult decisions about their son's future.

"You come to the point where you have to make the statement 'we are abandonging him,' and there's a great deal of guilt that goes along with that as well."