The arrival of the email was as disturbing as it was unexpected and the tone of the opening paragraph introduced an icy chill to an otherwise warm and cheery Christmas morning.
“My brother just moved to this assisted living house a few weeks ago, disgusting is all I have words for this,” announced the email from Shelley Turner.
“I have written the ombudsman, spoke with the people in charge of this residence to no avail.
“My brother is a recent leg amputee, they assist in what? Taking people’s money? That’s the complaints I hear from within, besides the food that is deplorable, and the bed bug situation that has been there for a year now as I was told.”
Before delving deeper, I was resigned to reading another horror story about a poor soul warehoused away at Walnut Manor in St. Thomas.
But no, in this case, the subject of her anger is Lakeview Terrace in Port Colborne.
What it has in common with Walnut Manor is the owner: Vishal Chityal, who also goes by the handle, Charlie Duke.
He’s been a person of interest in this corner dating back to 2014.
Shelley continues, “Staffed by one person, who has no credentials whatsoever, not an HCA, not a PSW, no RN or RPN, but she hands out medications, including narcotics.
“I’ve been there on several occasions, and have been part of the healthcare field for years, it’s appalling, to say the least. People here have mental issues and other issues that one staff member cannot meet the needs of.
“Someone’s lining their pockets.”
Walnut Manor has been referenced dozens of times in this corner since 2014 when its kitchen was closed down by the health unit for a period of three days in June of that year for various infractions.
Most recently, residents have had to endure a bed bug infestation.
What is most concerning is when you attempt to visit the website of either home, you are directed to SupportiveLiving.ca which has all the appearance of some industry organization that oversees the activities of members and ensures the well-being of residents.
There you will learn Vishal Chityal and his team at SupportiveLiving.ca was named “The Most Outstanding Supportive Services Management Team in Canada” by Canadian Over 50s Housing Magazine, whose head office is in Los Angeles.
Are you kidding me?
Tell that to Shelley who wrote, “A couple is in one room and has twin beds they push together. When I asked Patrick (Pinnoy, Manager of Sales and Client Relations) why they were being charged individually a single rate, he said because they have two beds.
“The food is utter disgust. I was told by many residents there is a protein shortage. Breakfast is always oatmeal, nothing else. Lunch is soup or sandwiches, supper is a beef stroganoff mixed with many things I wouldn’t feed my dog.”
Compare that with this statement from Chityal in a blog posting at SupportiveLiving.ca.
“Supportive Living communities provide a higher degree of independence for the residents while helping to manage basic daily living activities such as bathing, taking medications, dressing, housekeeping or doing laundry. Balanced meals are provided as well as various recreational and social activities.”
If it is any comfort, I guess the residents of both homes can always contact the
Manager of Sales and Client Relations – a member of the award-winning team – with any complaints they may have.
In her email, Shelley pleads, “These places need legislation and quick!”
Well on May 18, 2017, at Queen’s Park, Welland MPP Cindy Forster, author of private member’s Bill 135, an act to establish a framework for the licensing of supportive living accommodation, had the following to say about Chityal.
“He also owns properties in Hamilton and in London. He’s no stranger to city officials — substandard conditions. His tenants are high-risk— they’re usually on ODSP or social assistance; they often suffer from physical disability, mental health issues and have a strong dependency on operators — and Charlie Duke takes advantage. We get calls every day and complaints from them.”
Forster continued, “Charlie Duke, the alias — was forcing clients to sign over trusteeship, so he was having municipalities send the cheques directly to him. There were people there who weren’t just getting OW and ODSP; some of them were getting maybe $1,500 or $1,600 a month because they had worked in a job and had a bit of a pension. They were signing it over, and he was keeping all of their money.”
Her bill would provide “a framework for operators and sets minimum standards that must be met so that vulnerable tenants no longer suffer from a broken system.
“The bill defines what a home is, requires home operators to be licensed, similar to retirement homes—failure to have a licence is a punishable offence of up to $1,000 a day—and would set a framework for inspection and complaint protocols.”
Her bill had passed second reading and was before committee when the provincial vote was called last year.
However, Welland NDP MPP Jeff Burch has picked up the torch and his Protecting Vulnerable Persons in Supportive Living Accommodation Bill provides a framework for operators and sets minimum standards that must be met so that tenants are no longer at risk.
“Alberta introduced provincial legislation to protect their vulnerable residents living in supportive living facilities almost a decade ago. We need action in Ontario to stop more vulnerable people suffering at the hands of these unlicensed for-profit operators.”
During a press conference Dec. 10 at Queen’s Park Burch stressed, “The sector remains unregulated with no minimum standards of care. We’ve heard too many shocking stories of high-risk adults and seniors being mistreated, neglected and left to live in deplorable conditions.”
Burch was joined by Karen Barry, whose father Rick spent several months installed at Walnut Manor and her story can be found here.
Shelley can most certainly relate to Karen’s experience at Walnut Manor.
“My brother hasn’t had a bath since he’s been there, it’s not wheelchair friendly and the ramp I have a hard time pushing my brother up it, I can’t imagine him doing it himself.
“He has fallen twice in the bathroom in between his wheelchair and toilet, we had to bring a commode in.”
“He just lost his leg, is adjusting to a new way of life and keeps saying he’d rather die. Incompetent is what these people are. There are no light bulbs in his bathroom, I had to provide him with towels and toiletries and most of the time bringing him up food to eat. I will boycott this residence if I have to. Thank you.”
Thank MPP Burch, Shelley, and support his efforts to “introduce new safeguards to protect residents.”
As Burch pointed out earlier this month, “Alberta introduced provincial legislation to protect their vulnerable residents living in supportive living facilities almost a decade ago. We need action in Ontario to stop more vulnerable people suffering at the hands of these unlicensed for-profit operators.”
No doubt, Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek will throw his support behind the efforts of MPP Burch.
After all, the horror stories of Walnut Manor – housed in the riding he represents – have been well documented right here.
ENJOY A FREE RIDE
Once again, the city is offering to be the designated driver as you celebrate the arrival of 2020.
St. Thomas Transit is providing a free transit service from 8:15 p.m. New Year’s Eve through to 3:15 a.m. New Year’s Day.
The free rides consist of conventional buses operating on the regular transit routes.
If you are not a regular user of the city’s transit system, you can get route info here.
In addition, the city is suspending the overnight parking restriction between 3 and 5 a.m. to support staying overnight rather than driving after drinking.
Normally, a motorist cannot park a vehicle on any city street between those hours unless an overnight parking permit is displayed.
ALL IN THE INTERPRETATION
Back in September, we wondered is Ontario really leading the way in this county when dealing with climate change?
It is a claim made on several occasions by the province’s Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, Jeff Yurek.
In this case, it was a media release issued by Yurek following the Sept. 27 climate emergency rally in front of St. Thomas city hall.
In his release, Yurek noted, “I am proud to say that Ontario is leading the way when it comes to fighting climate change in Canada.”
He added, “We have made significant reductions with emissions down 22 per cent.”
Well, according to data provided by Environment and Climate Change Canada, Ontario is, in fact, in third place behind Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
So, we put that discrepancy in front of Andrew Buttigieg, Minister Yurek’s press secretary, for clarification.
He agreed Ontario is third in greenhouse gas emission (GHG) reductions.
“As you know, Ontario’s GHG target is a 30% reduction by 2030 relative to 2005 levels. As of the 2017 data year, Ontario has achieved a reduction of 22%, which is the third-highest in the country after Nova Scotia and New Brunswick on a percentage basis.”
You have to factor in the population of each province, stressed Buttigieg. That is what puts Ontario in the lead position.
“In absolute terms, Ontario has reduced emissions the most of any jurisdiction, achieving a 45 megatonne reduction between 2005 and 2017. The next highest jurisdiction is Quebec with an 8 megatonne reduction.”
Fair enough. A good justification, Andrew.
Where there is no debate is the fact most of the emissions reduction in this province can be credited to the Liberal governments of Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne.
To which Minister Yurek agreed in a conversation following the climate rally.
“I would say the coal plant closings was the bulk of that and we paid a price for that in our hydro rates. We saw them soar and that was dealing with the cleaner energy grid.”
Earlier this month we got the opportunity to tour Phase 1 of the social services and housing hub at 230 Talbot Street.
The building itself is impressive and offers a distinctive welcome at the western gateway to St. Thomas.
The main floor housing the city’s social services offices is bright, airy and inviting.
The housing units are utilitarian but, no doubt, a welcome new home for tenants.
But how do these units stack up against new affordable apartments being offered by a private developer?
In other words, should the city be in the business of building this type of housing or should it, instead, encourage developers to fill the much-needed void?
Next week in this corner.
THE READER’S WRITE
Steve Ogden checked in on LinkedIn with a trio of observations sparked by last week’s column.
“While I applaud the concept, it seems a trifle ambitious for a city that has yet to provide a transit system to take city residents back and forth to work every day. I also find it odd there’s no mention of other municipalities sharing the cost of this, though it’s likely to be of mutual benefit.”
With regard to a recent infrastructure funding announcement at St. Thomas Elgin General Hosptial, Steve writes the following.
“Interesting. The province will give St. Thomas $1.2 million “to maintain infrastructure and ensure a safe and comfortable environment for patients” while implementing a long list of hospital cuts, privatization, mergers & closures across the province … part of which includes forcing St. Thomas to cover 30 per cent of our other public-health costs.”
Steve closes out with this question.
“How does a city receive $2.6 million in funding specifically assigned to a project with a ‘soft’ business case?”
As a point of clarification on that one, city manager Wendell Graves did indicate there was a “soft” business case for Phase 2 of the social services and housing hub at 230 Talbot Street, which was to include 24 housing units on the two floors above a childcare centre.
Where the numbers did not paint a positive picture was on the construction of the apartment units themselves. The childcare centre was not an issue and to receive the provincial funding for the facility to be opened before the end of the new year, the city had to look elsewhere for a standalone building.
On the Alma College heritage easement agreement, Patty Weisdorf kept her message simple on LinkedIn.
“Very sad – like deleting memories.”
Addressing the pilot transit project for St. Thomas, Jim Russell is not impressed, as witness this comment on Facebook.
“Way to go St Thomas. Let’s take the people out of St Thomas and encourage them to do their business in London. Not only that, let’s get the homeowners and businesses to help support this through their taxes. Oh, just one more thing, does council remember the days of zero percent property tax increase? I didn’t think so! Merry Christmas to everyone.”
The Municipality of Central Elgin is preparing a Secondary Plan for the Port Stanley harbour lands and is hosting a public input session on Jan. 15 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Port Stanley Arena. There will be a presentation at 7 p.m. You are invited to participate and share your thoughts.
The invitation sent our way paints a dreamy picture.
“Imagine yourself at a Mardi Gras celebration at the famous Stork Club in Port Stanley. The music of the Uptown Dixieland Jazz Band will bring you back to the great days at the Stork Club dance hall. Traditional Dixieland music from the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s will be featured in concert. It is Mardi Gras time and this band knows how to celebrate the great era that was the Stork Club.”
Step back in time at 7 p.m. Feb. 22 at Port Stanley Festival Theatre. For more info and tickets, visit https://psft.ca/event/mardi-gras-night-at-the-stork-club. Proceeds benefit the Kids Mental Health Optimist Club of Canada.
Questions and comments may be emailed to City Scope
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