Community Living day programs to resume when pandemic is over

WELLINGTON COUNTY – When COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, Community Living centres in the region will reopen and the day programs once offered will resume.

Cindy Kinnon, who became the new executive director of Community Living Guelph Wellington  (CLGW) on Dec. 14, said in an interview on March 5 that the organization has been listening to the complaints and concerns of people who use its services and their families, and is ready to respond.

“Our intention was never to close the program but was to evolve the program,” she said.

“But we heard loud and clear that people like the centres, so yes, we’re committed to opening them.”

Kinnon said in her three months on the job the agency has held several town hall meetings with family and staff and a special members meeting in February, “which was a great opportunity for the board to hear the issues.

“So, we’re developing a plan we will start implementing shortly.”

Community Living centres closed abruptly last March when the pandemic hit and staff was redeployed to congregate care settings, as directed by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services.

In the fall came word the day programs were ending, and workers would spend one-on-one time with individuals instead.

According to a document provided by CLGW, “When we announced that the Community Living Centres would not re-open for day services, our team felt this was an opportunity to build on the routines that families and the people supported had been building throughout the pandemic.

“Families demonstrated exceptional resiliency when faced with significant reductions in services. CLGW Day Services would act as a bridge, building around the new routines and schedules to enhance the support people were already receiving…

“However, in October family members of the people supported and interested community members began to express serious concerns with this decision.

“CLGW listened and in November announced that the buildings would re-open to help plan and promote opportunities for the people we supported.”

Kinnon said Community Living centres – in Fergus, Erin, Harriston, Mount Forest and two in Guelph – will remain closed until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. Then officials will gradually allow the people they support back into the buildings.

When the region moves to orange (restrict) level in the provincial COVID-19 response framework, day programs will begin for those with the highest needs.

“We will open Community Living centres for inside activities,” she said. “Community activities will continue to be restricted.”

When the region reaches the yellow (protect) level, more people can come inside the centres, she said.

“In phase three, when all restrictions are lifted, we will offer the same supports as before the pandemic,” she said. “Day and community supports, but still individual programs.”

The agency will soon begin a community engagement project as well, bringing all voices to the table as it figures out the way forward.

Kinnon said some people remain skeptical – and that’s fair.

“Some are pleased but some are unsure and nervous,” she said.

“But that’s what the engagement project will do – give confidence that we’re listening and co-designing programs together.”

Linda DeVries counts herself on the skeptical side.

Her daughter Rebecca used the day program at the Harriston Community Living centre and has had a hard time since the centre closed.

“I’m very happy it sounds like they are reopening, but I don’t see victory yet,” DeVries said.

“I’m also hearing they will shut them down in three years. So I’m ready to keep fighting. It’s important. I feel like there’s more work to do.”

Kinnon said she’s come full-circle in her career.

She began as an attendant with Guelph Independent Living and moved on to other positions including leading the Safehaven Project for Community Living Toronto and most recently as the lead for Catholic Family Services of Hamilton.

“I’ve always lived in Guelph, but to have the opportunity to serve my community is really a blessing” she said.