This is a horrible time of year to revisit this story. But can there ever be a good time to tackle what has been described as warehousing of our most vulnerable residents?
In June of 2014, this corner profiled a disturbing situation at Walnut Manor, an independent supportive living home in St. Thomas operated by Niagara Supportive Living of Welland.
Fourteen residents in the home were served up meals described as appalling not appealing by St. Thomas lawyer Elena Dempsey.
She had become an advocate for the residents and was reaching out to the community for their help and support to turn things around at Walnut Manor.
Things had gotten so bad, Elgin St. Thomas Public Health shut the kitchen down for three days.
Four-and-a-half years later and it would appear history is repeating itself.
A concerned relative of a gentleman living at Walnut Manor contacted City Scope this week with concerns “my dad is living in and paying for services and supports he is not receiving.”
In an email, she writes “Things may have improved but the improvements didn’t last as people that are living there are still dealing with substandard food and food shortages almost daily.”
She has attempted to contact the director, Vishal Chityal, to no avail.
“I have left another message with public health (Elgin St. Thomas Public Health) and am insisting on a food inspection but am still awaiting a reply.”
In a phone conversation this week – with desperation clearly evident in her voice – she adds “I contacted food services department at Niagara Supportive living last Friday (Dec. 15) and the person I spoke with was going to cc me in an email to the director to ask him to please reply to my calls and emails but to date I have not seen an email nor have I heard back from Vishal Chityal.”
She concluded her email with, “Even if I move my dad out of there today, it won’t help all of the other vulnerable people living there and being treated like substandard human beings.”
Do you have a relative or friend residing at Walnut Manor? Are you aware of concerns raised about the quality and quantity of food being served at the facility?
Please contact City Scope at the email address below.
In an interview with Dempsey in 2014, she stated “Our goal is to work with him (Chityal) if he would only be honest and admit to the deficiencies and then work toward a viable, affordable way of getting a standard for people that is not warehousing.”
STRATEGIC DIRECTION ON OVERTIME
The 2018 budget approved Monday by city council indicated the 2017 overtime figure for the fire department has now exceeded half a million dollars – in the range of $530,000.
Let that sink in . . . the department has racked up over $500,000 in overtime this year.
The budgeted figure was $291,173. That is an obscene overage of almost $240,000.
The overtime budget for 2018 is pegged at $450,000, a 54.5 per cent hike over this year’s listed amount.
Would it not be cheaper to hire a couple more individuals and knock down the overtime?
If you want to know why the city was adamant a new fire chief would not be an internal hire, perhaps this was the driving force.
Incoming chief Robert Davidson will take over the reins Jan. 29 and we hope to talk to him early in the new year as to addressing this burgeoning budget item.
Davidson currently is an assistant fire chief in Chatham-Kent and has over 30 years of frontline and administrative experience.
The media release notes Davidson has “progressive education” in public administration.
The release goes on to advise, “The City looks forward to the strategic direction and operational management that Mr. Davidson will bring to the fire service.”
Seems to be quite an onus on the administrative side to the position.
And, with contract negotiations with the city now at the arbitration stage – with 24-hour shifting a flash point – is Davidson coming into the game facing a bases-loaded situation?
A COMEBACK OF SORTS
If you remember, back in 2012 the province made the unpopular decision to relocate the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) office out of St. Thomas to York Street in London. Bill Walters, Elgin County Warden at the time, described the move as “the most vicious attack on the most vulnerable of our society and, to me, it is unacceptable.”
Subject to council approval Monday, the city’s Social Services department is willing to provide ODSP staff with office space at 423 Talbot Street at no charge.
This space would be used four to six times per month for scheduled caseworker-driven appointments for things like signing paperwork or to facilitate specific accommodation issues that may arise for St. Thomas and Elgin county ODSP clients.
It could also be utilized when ODSP clients find it challenging to travel to London, staff in that city can make arrangements with St. Thomas-Elgin Social Services to be on site at the St. Thomas office twice per month.
In her report to council, St. Thomas-Elgin Social Services Director Elizabeth Sebestyen advises this limited return of local ODSP service could begin early in the new year.
An important caveat to temper this encouraging development.
ODSP senior management has made it clear this is the most assistance that can be offered at this time.
SWEETEN THE POT
Following approval of the 2018 budget, city manager Wendell Graves announced Entegrus – the merger partner of St. Thomas Energy/Ascent – will contribute $50,000 to the city for community use once the utility marriage becomes a reality.
The target date for the merger is Jan. 1.
FOR THE CALENDAR
Curbside collection of Christmas trees will be provided during the weeks of January 2-5 and January 9-12.
Have your tree at the curb by 7 a.m. on your normal waste collection day. Remember to remove all decorations, lights and stands and do not wrap your tree in plastic.
This collection is for natural trees only; artificial trees will not be collected.
OUR CHRISTMAS WISH TO YOU
As has been the custom for several years, we put forth the following last-minute – but timely year-round – gift suggestions for you to distribute in appropriate fashion.
To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.
And, to all faithful City Scope readers, especially those with birthdays at this supercharged time of year, when your special day too often is lost in the hustle and bustle that is the lead-up to the day itself – may this Christmas bring you peace, health and happiness.
And, as always, it is quite alright to wish this corner a Merry Christmas.
Questions and comments may be emailed to: City Scope
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