Vulnerable residents of homes like Walnut Manor are victims of ‘a gap in the system’


city_scope_logo-cmykElgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek points to a “a gap in the system.”
He is referring to the situation of unlicensed group homes like Walnut Manor, shut down this week by Southwestern Public Health until all health and safety violations are remediated.
“I think we’ve acknowledged that across the board,” continued Yurek in a conversation Thursday (July 8).”
We asked him about Jeff Burch, NDP MPP for Niagara Centre who, in December of 2019, introduced a private member’s bill to regulate supportive living homes like Walnut Manor and others owned and operated by SupportiveLiving.ca.
The 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.

On Nov. 2 of 2019, the bill passed unanimously at second reading in the Ontario Legislature. It is now at the committee stage.
A similar proposal, Bill 135, was brought forward on May 18, 2017, by then Welland NDP MPP Cindy Forster and prompted, in part, by the actions of Vishal Chityal of SupportiveLiving.ca.
Walnut Manor garbagejpgForster had this to say about Chityal – who also goes by the name Charlie Duke.
“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.”
Yurek updated the status of Burch’s bill.
“I’m hoping the various ministries, health and community and social services, work together and try to fix that gap.
“I’m glad action was taken on that home and I’m glad the local folks were able to deal with it as they have.
“But. there still needs to be a fix provincially. Hopefully, they can utilize MPP Burch as a starting point to fill in that gap.”
Yurek added, “It doesn’t matter where the idea is coming from. There are lots of opportunities for all governments to take a look at what is coming from the Opposition benches and make that work for all of Ontario.
“I think MPP Burch’s bill is a good start. It’s a gap and we need to fix that gap.”

“That’s one of the reasons we closed the premises. Those orders were issued in June and July and they were not being complied with. And that’s why we escalated the situation and issued the Section 13 Order for closure.”

There are two options, advised Yurek.
“Get it through the committee process and come back for third reading. Or, the ministry could adapt the bill into a bigger government bill and then get it put through.
“Whichever one is quicker.”
Leading up to the Section 13 Order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act to close Walnut Manor due to the existence of significant health hazards, five inspections were undertaken over the last month or so.
Southwestern Public Health conducted a series of inspections on June 3, 11, 22, 29, and July 6 that revealed ongoing violations at the site, including extensive mould contamination, rodent and bed bug infestations, sanitation issues, and a lack of hot running water.
Peter Heywood of the health unit filled in more details on the order and time allocated to address the violations.
“Typically the orders that we issue are effective immediately. And it’s really about conversing with the owner/operator to mitigate the health hazards that are identified.
“And then, obviously, conducting an inspection to satisfy those requirements.”
Because Walnut Manor is now closed, there is not really a timeline attached to the order, pointed out Heywood.
Which makes sense. If Vishal Chityal wants to continue operations in St. Thomas, there are numerous requirements that need to be addressed.
The question needing an answer is how important is Walnut Manor to Chityal’s overall operations.
What if he just walks away from the home?
Heywood reiterated, “We converse with the owner to seek compliance, but it is up to the owner to do that.”
Now here is the lightbulb moment.

“If we don’t see improvement, it can come with warnings and then if it is something of gross negligence, then you can accelerate it to a Section 13 Order. And that order can be a closure or other requirements.”

Is the operator, SupportiveLiving.ca, cooperating with the health unit on the outstanding issues?
“That’s one of the reasons we closed the premises. Those orders were issued in June and July and they were not being complied with.
“And that’s why we escalated the situation and issued the Section 13 Order for closure.
It’s all about progressive enforcement, reminded Heywood.
“We typically provide an opportunity for the owner/operator to correct the infractions and then we educate them and make them aware of the best practices and regulatory responsibilities.
“If we don’t see improvement, it can come with warnings and then if it is something of gross negligence, then you can accelerate it to a Section 13 Order. And that order can be a closure or other requirements.”
So, any pushback you may hear from SupportiveLiving.ca about fully rectifying any issues and somehow they are being wrongly punished comes down to Heywood’s explanation, “And that’s why we escalated the situation and issued the Section 13 Order for closure.”
This week’s shuttering of Walnut Manor can be summed up in simple fashion . . . non-compliance.

Related posts:

A Section 13 closure order for Walnut Manor – ‘This was an unfit, unsafe environment for living’

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A LOT OF CATCH-UP GOING ON RIGHT NOW

Post cabinet shuffle, MPP Jeff Yurek stresses he is focused on his Elgin-Middlesex-London riding.
“It’s what I’ve been focussed on for the last decade. I’ve had lots of successes, I think, over the last decade. I’m going to work on more successes for the people of the riding.
Jeff Yurek wetlands announcement June 17-21“The only disappointment I would have is the real lack of representation from southwestern Ontario at the cabinet table, compared to other areas of the province.”
That would be the beefed-up representation from the GTA.
“I think we’re a big region. A big region to have a reduced number around the table.”
He was quick to add, however, “We all work as a team. So, we’ll see how that moves forward.
To continue with the role played by southwestern Ontario, Yurek noted, “I think the economic heartbeat of the Province of Ontario is southwestern Ontario. It’s an area that needs to be respected and we’ll keep pushing and doing what we can for the area.”
Yurek pointed out, “The best part of being elected as an MPP is spending time in your riding with the people who put you there. I really enjoy being with the folks in the area and there is a lot of catch-up going on right now.”

A NEW CHILD CARE CENTRE FAR FROM A SLAM DUNK

The city’s proposed childcare centre to be located on the St. Catharine Street parking lot, across from the former Colin McGregor Justice Building, just got punted further down the road.
In a report to council from city manager Wendell Graves for Monday’s meeting (July 11), he indicates the results of the tendering process undertaken last month point to an escalation in cost of about $300,000.
St. Thomas Child CareThat would put the cost estimate in the $4.3 million range whereas just over $4 million has been budgeted for the badly needed 88-space childcare facility.
Graves attributes the increased cost to “construction material costs as a result of the pandemic. In addition to this, the timing of the tender call in the spring reflected the availability of the construction industry at this point in the year.”
In plain English, everybody is busy right now.
Graves adds, “it is understood that the cost of construction materials is starting to correct and that they should begin to normalize later in the year.”
The province is contributing $2.6 million in funding for the childcare spaces with the original provision the project be completed at the end of 2020.

“Although this cannot be absolutely guaranteed, administration will continue to work with the ministry.”

With construction of Phase 2 of the community and social services hub at 230 Talbot Street on hold for several years – where the childcare facility was originally intended to be located along with affordable housing – the province approved a shift in venue to St. Catharine Street.
In April of this year, Graves recommended to council “the proposed childcare project on St. Catharine Street be cancelled and the funds returned to the province” because the city couldn’t meet the new deadline of a completed facility by this September.
The province is showing remarkable patience in all of this which points to the desperate need for spaces in a post-pandemic world.
So the city is now proposing to have a revised completion date for the project for December of next year, which would allow for a tendering process this fall.
Here’s the caveat, as noted in Graves’ report to council.
“Should the project be postponed at this point the Ministry desires to have some certainty that the project would move forward following a fall tendering process.”
Not a certainty, notes Graves.
“Although this cannot be absolutely guaranteed, administration will continue to work with the ministry.”
Meantime, an update on the status of Phase 2 of the delayed community and social services hub from Graves.
“We’re hoping that’s going to be well underway by early fall and that there will be some dirt moving over there.”
Many anxious parents would love to see dirt moving on St. Catharine Street as well.

Related posts:

From community hub to municipal parking lot: Trading spaces on new St. Thomas childcare facility

Childcare spaces disappear as the result of a ‘soft’ business case

HOW’S THAT SEARCH FOR A FIRE CHIEF COMING ALONG?

While we had the city manager on the phone this week, we queried the status of the fire chief position with Bob Davidson gone at the end of the month.
“We’ll implement our usual recruitment process through our HR department and it will be advertised, of course, as we typically do for positions like that.
“We’ll try and get that underway in the next couple of weeks. Vacation timing we may have to figure out in terms of when our HR staff is around to implement it but we will get that going.”
Acting Fire Chief Ray Ormerod may be in that position for some time, then.

THE READER’S WRITE

Our item last week on Walnut Manor and our midweek update on the closure of the facility by Southwestern Public Health generated plenty of feedback, including this from Susan Gerry.

“It breaks my heart that it took so long for this to happen despite the hard work and intervention by so many people. Now for the hardest part: finding appropriate funding and placement. Many of these individuals have complicated care needs that are not easily supported.

Which prompted this response from Sue Margetts

“Susan Gerry, the meaning of intervention in Webster’s dictionary: ‘action taken to improve a situation.’
“The situation did not improve for these people. You worked in the broken system and taking any credit for a situation that was appalling for years and years is unbelievable. ‘Now for the hardest part,’ another statement that is non-inclusive of the residents.
“My friend ‘complicated care needs’ is living in a long-term care home here in St. Thomas and doing just fine. Treat them as human beings, it is not rocket science.
“How do you expect people to improve in an environment that is void of basic needs. ‘Not easily supported,’ they lived in filth, disease, food not fit for human consumption. How well would you do in an environment like that?
“Most are psychiatric patients … what do you know about psychiatry? “Everyone there was protecting their jobs at the cost of these people. Did you protest? No. Did you write about what they experienced to the paper? No.
“You did not put yourself on the line for these people and come here after and whine ‘we tried’ will not give these people the years back they lost due to this abuse.”

Deb Hardy adds the following.

“I cannot believe this slum lord has gotten away with this abuse all this time.”

And Kathryn Hogan has key questions we all would like answered.

“I am deeply troubled by the information in this excellent article. I have more questions though. Does the ministry license this home? Who is ultimately responsible for closing the facility and why did it take so long?”

On MPP Jeff Yurek being stripped of his cabinet post, Leo Renner has this suggestion.

“Jeff Yurek was broadsided, and I have no doubt he is seriously considering his options. He is and has been a hardworking member on behalf of we constituents.
“When Ford was chosen – although it’s not something Jeff would share – I’m sure he just held his nose and plugged on.
“I’ve crossed life-long party lines to support him and will continue to support him, no matter what party he might join (maybe not the NDP) or if he runs as an independent.
“We are lucky to have Jeff and Karen Vecchio as our representatives.”

Questions and comments may be emailed to City Scope

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And a reminder, I can be heard weekday afternoons as news anchor and reporter on 94.1 myFM in St. Thomas. As always, your comments and input are appreciated.

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