A new beginning, but about the ending


It’s a new beginning for Tara Hall. The 36-bed, adult assisted-living home dating back to 1988 on Chester St., is under new ownership and is now re-branded as New Beginnings Residence.
Late last year we dwelt with the domiciliary hostel, one of several unregulated residences in St. Thomas that provide board or lodging for vulnerable individuals who need supervision of their daily living activities.
The facility currently is on a month-to-month contract with the city for the provision of lodging and late last year, the situation with Tara Hall and previous owner Jim Akey was the topic of discussion behind closed doors.
We had a lengthy discussion with new owner John Gaspar, who operates four other residences across the province.
“When taking over the place, I was surprised there was a level of violence and a bit of chaos,” Gaspar admits.
“Doing further investigation,” he continues, “there were some agencies, and even the police, that were not happy with some of the rumors about what was going on in the place. So, I wanted to make a clear and fresh start and let the community know this was a new beginning and hence the name.

“We actually evicted four people. There was some stigma attached to the home and I wanted to clear the air.”
This is refreshing candor on the part of Gaspar.
“My rules don’t necessarily match the rules of other owners. I have very strict standards around respecting yourself and respecting those around you. There is very little tolerance for violence when I’m the owner.”
He’s been quick to make changes to the residence.
“There’s been a lot of renovations done,” Gaspar points out. “There have been staff changes and resident changes. The staff was almost totally changed. The reason for the staff changes was more that I like to start fresh with people that interview with me. I wanted to go on with the idea of new beginning, even with staff.”
That new beginning, however, could quickly become a discouraging finale as Gaspar gets down to the financial nuts and bolts with the city.
“The city is terminating my contract in March and we’re going to be starting up with an agreement with the Canadian Mental Health Association. They already know my home intimately. They’re there every day. And I enjoy working with them.”
This is the result of the city’s new homeless funding plan approved Monday by city council whereby St. Thomas-Elgin Ontario Works will enter into an agreement with the CMHA to manage the intake and assessment of applicants and their placement into residential care facilities.
It is Gaspar’s opinion the city is fixing what isn’t broken.
“I will receive funding, but there is the biggest challenge. It looks like our home will be grandfathered in but the rates are almost certain to go down. Whereas everywhere else in the province the rates are going up.
“With the rates going down, something has got to give. I came into the picture to improve the quality of care and I got slapped with what appears to be a decrease in funding to reach my objectives.
“It’s going to be a struggle to stay open, it’s that serious. If the rate gets too silly, my business plan won’t work at all.”
It goes from bad to worse.
Gaspar has five years to install a sprinkler system throughout the residence at a cost of over $100,000, by his estimate.
“So if the funding is cut, you have to say this isn’t working. In plain mathematics, it’s not making sense.”
Gaspar says he is under the belief the city still wants to do business with him.
“This is the case, they have kept their word. What nobody told me is they want to continue to do business with me at half the rate. Oops, they left out a minor detail.”
He will make a deputation to city council in the next two weeks to present his financial case.
If there is no satisfactory resolution, the curtain could be coming down on a very short one-act play.
City Scope has been invited to tour New Beginnings and we’ll update in the coming weeks.

Last summer’s Tom Zombie Festival caught the imagination of many residents with the prospect of an annual tourist draw in a somewhat different vein.
City council, while not embracing the event, didn’t throw up any major roadblocks, even with the planned zombie walk past city hall.
Well the organizers are going back to the well Monday when Bryan Bakker, chairman of the St. Thomas Tom Zombie Organizing Committee, will present a deputation to city council.
This time seeking financial support.
Could this be considered a case of blood money?

Reader Dave Mathers checks in this week with a business proposition that could benefit the city’s homeless while providing a needed resource for the Times-Journal.
He is referring to last week’s column where we talked about the need to get homeless individuals back contributing to society.
A couple of pages later on in Saturday’s T-J is an advertisement for newspaper carriers. Here’s where Dave relates the two, with a possible solution.
“I believe this can be a golden opportunity for (homeless advocate) Jason McComb to use his talents to get the homeless jobs delivering the T-J. This could become a win-win-win situation.
“A car would not be required for the majority of the routes. Growing up, many of us had paper routes and it was a good source of money and training.”
It’s this outside-the-box thinking that leads to positive outcomes for all involved.

“This community is not a wealthy community.”
Ald. Cliff Barwick states the obvious Monday in relation to a reminder from treasurer Bill Day city ratepayers are looking at a possible hike of 3.8% in the municipal property tax levy this year.

City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to ian.mccallum@sunmedia.ca.

One thought on “A new beginning, but about the ending

  1. Hi Ian!
    As a result of my overwhelming schedule, issues I am dealing with, and planning “Walking In The Free World II” (My walk all through and across Canada beginning April 01, 2014 when I walk from St Thomas to Toronto in order to fly to Newfoundland) for the less fortunate/down trodden and homeless in particular, I missed this post! As a result, I want to apologize for missing it as well as, thank both Dave Mathers, and yourself for the “tip” on paper routes! I am unaware of how to get a hold of Mr. Mathers! I am unaware of whether or not he has a hand in assigning routes or not but if he is, perhaps we can work together on getting this genius idea into works!

    As I mentioned and you are aware of, I leave April 01, 2014 to embark on a trek that, as a result of not just being a cross country walk rather, a journey that will see me walk into, around, and “weave through” each of the provinces from St John’s Newfoundland finishing in Victoria, British Columbia (this of course is after walking to Toronto to catch my flight east), I will be gone for a long, long time. However, that is not to say I cannot put this into motion before I go!

    It is common place among those in need to share the news that resources have been acquired that provide opportunities such as employment! Be it temporary, part/full time, opportunities such as Mr. Mathers mentioned. That being said, if we get one, two, three, or any number of the homeless or, less fortunate of any scenario into one of these positions, the news of it will be shared and in turn, others that are in need with the need, and/or desire to do something will follow suit!

    Thank you again for this awesome yet, simple solution to more than one of the many problems in need of resolution!


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