The cuts to staff and programs at Community Living Elgin are nothing short of devastating.
And the union’s call to action urging Minister of Community and Social Services Helena Jaczek to audit the organization’s leadership, finances and operations in a bid to bring meaningful change must not go unheeded.
OPSEU vice-president Ron Elliott ups the ante even further.
“We’ve called for the minister to put Community Living Elgin in trusteeship. To take it over, to put in a monitor.”
Citing a $700,000 deficit, the organization plans to eliminate 17 full-time positions — 64 staff cuts in total — as well as close the drop-in centre at the Talbot Teen Centre, eliminate the day support programming at 2 Curtis St., and shut down a group home on East St.
The dire situation prompted Karen Barr, whose sister has been a client of Community Living Elgin for many years and who will be negatively impacted by the cuts, to forward a copy of a letter our way addressed to executive director Tom McCallum (no relation), several directors, board president Bob Ashcroft and MPP Jeff Yurek.
Karen opens her letter by introducing her sister “Kathy Meathrell (who) has benefited greatly and grown as a human being because of her involvement with Community Living Elgin and the caring staff who have helped her throughout the years.
“Since her quality of life is about to be swept away, I want to speak up on her behalf.”
It is Karen’s understanding her sister will have no more access to day programs.
“There will be no one available to take her to aquafit, school of rock, the Seniors Centre or Mass,” she writes.
“Your staff will be stretched so thin they won’t have time to deal with anything beyond the basics of life. As a result, Kathy will no longer be an active part of the St. Thomas community.”
In other words, more time alone in her apartment parked in front of a television.
“Your staff won’t be able to do more than take her grocery shopping and to medical appointments. Where is the justice in that?”
Karen wonders “How do you justify that when your service principle says, ‘you will encourage and support a level of community involvement that respects the abilities and disabilities of the person’?”
Karen notes many of the senior staff “have dedicated over 20 years of service to the clients of Community Living.”
She continues, “They have formed bonds with their clients. For someone like Kathy, whose closest relative lives 1 1/2 hours away, those bonds are important.
“Kathy is losing access to programs, now she is losing the support of staff members she considers to be friends. How would you suggest I explain this to her?”
Karen cuts to the chase by pointing out, “you have known about pay equity since the late 1990s. Why did you not start earlier to prepare for the day when you had to implement it?
“Perhaps the most upsetting comment on your website was this will not be the end to changes.
“You have taken away Kathy’s ability to be involved in day programs. You have taken away her contact with support staff she has developed friendships with and trusts.”
Karen closes with the observation, “I guess it is true that those who are the most disenfranchised in our society lose the most.
“You are the ones who are supposed to be protecting her right to live a full life.”
And, she encourages the executive director to re-examine the organization’s pledge to provide “continuous quality improvement.”
This is not an improvement in quality of life for Kathy and the other clients impacted by the last round of cuts.
Karen looks forward to a response from the executive director.
As do we.
HAVE YOUR SAY
A story last Saturday in the T-J dealing with the possibility of a needle disposal box at the west entrance to city hall generated passionate response on our Facebook page — most of it positive.
Ken Jackson posted this directed at those opposed to the location: “Just be thankful you naysayers haven’t fallen into the world of addiction. Most people who are there rather wouldn’t be. Legal or illegal use, they will at least make the city a little safer. And if the health unit says we need it, we need it.”
Darren Henderson recounted these experiences: “Two summers ago I found 3 insulin syringes and 2 – 3mL syringes with 5/8 subcutaneous needle tips on the corner by Tim Hortons. Later that week I found an unused Epi-pen at a bus stop. Who knows if it will be as successful as Surrey BC but regardless … better than finding them laying around on the streets. It only takes one poke to cause a world of grief.”
Lisa Lacey contributed with: “I have found used needles in the parking lot across from the police station on two occasions while walking to the library with my children. So the needles are already being used in that area so a place for them to hopefully safely dispose of them would be nice, so that maybe my children won’t have to keep finding them on the ground.”
Nathan Hobson stresses, “Better in a drop box than a kid picking it off the street, or a city employee getting stuck with one changing garbage bins downtown. Big picture people.”
And in closing, Laurie Anne Wyles reminds: “This is the area where the majority of the needles are found. I think this is a smart move.”
As always, your comments are always welcome on this issue, the Fantasy of Lights decision to pull the plug, the new police station, the proposed skateboard or whatever else strikes a chord.
You can forward them to the email address below.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“People are devastated, their families are devastated. The people we support are devastated because they’ll have nowhere to go. This is going to hit the community.”
Steve Abdey, OPSEU Local 151 president speaking Thursday at the information picket held outside Community Living Elgin.
City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.