Community Living to temporarily reopen six day programs, centres

Officials say plan still includes permanent closures, but agency will first consult with families

GUELPH – Community Living Guelph Wellington (CLGW) will keep its day centres open for the time being.

The announcement was made in a Nov. 9 statement from board chair Gerry Walsh and executive director Laura Hanley.

They say that while CLGW will not reconsider the direction set out in its strategic plan, the agency will take time to consult with families and the people it supports before closing the centres for good.

“Closing the congregate and segregated day services occurring at the Community Living Centres was, and is still a part of our plan. However, we are altering the timing of the closures,” the statement reads.

“The Community Living Centres in Guelph and Wellington County will be utilized temporarily to provide congregate support.

“People we support will be able to explore opportunities and new experiences in an effort for them to make choices that will prepare them to participate in inclusive community-based supports.”

The statement acknowledges CLGW has received much feedback since announcing the closures and apologizes for upsetting people.

“We regret that our miscommunication and lack of clarity created confusion and anger,” it states.

CLGW has adopted what it calls a “person-centred” approach for the people in its care and intends to phase out day programs in favour of one-on-one support and integration into community programs.

It has six centres – in Harriston, Mount Forest, Fergus, Erin and two in Guelph.

While all CLGW programs except their residential program ceased in March because of COVID-19, the day programs had not resumed when families learned of the new plan.

Many expressed outrage at what they perceive as a reduction in care.

Linda DeVries said her daughter Rebecca, who normally attends at the Harriston day program for six hours a day, four days a week, has had two hours of support since March.

The new directive is not reinstating the day program, she said.

“All they are doing is allowing congregation of members. This is just a crumb they’re offering,” DeVries said.

“But we will continue full force until change is made.”

DeVries started a petition and that has collected about 1,300 signatures over two weeks.

She’s also started a Facebook page, Families Needing Support, and hopes to connect with other affected families to devise a plan to move forward.

She said the day program offered fun and friendship for her daughter and a little respite for her and her husband.

DeVries said Rebecca, who has Down syndrome, is high functioning, “but I know there are others who are far more vulnerable.

“I want to see action and the sooner the better.”

CLGW officials state they will eventually close the day centres, but will first engage in community consultation.

“Prior to our eventual closure of the congregate and segregated day services, we will engage in a community consultation around the use of the Community Living Centres,” the statement reads.

“At that time, we will explore community resources and services that benefit everyone, including the people who raised funds to build these community spaces. Our goal is for these buildings to become an inclusive space for everyone.

“Revenue generated from these inclusive spaces will be used to enhance the services we provide for adults with disabilities.”

The statement concludes, “We will be distributing an updated work plan to the people we support in day services, their families, and our staff in the near future.”