Perth Courier: Press release

TONIA KELLY

For publication on:     Feb. 10, 2009.

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            Back row, left to right, are: Krista Cameron, volunteer, Dave Hagerman, executive director, and staff members Brittany Gordon, Natasha Grenier and Katie MacDonald, in the cheerful company of four- and five-year-olds at the TayCare Centre on Wilson Street East.

In 1989 the Ellenvale Nursing Home ( on the Upper Scotch Line road in  Tay Valley closed, creating an urgent need for a new home for its four developmentally challenged residents.

In response to this appeal, the Tayside Community Residential and Support Options was formed that year, as a non-profit charitable organization, and a new home, its first assisted living residence, was established

Over the years the need grew, as did the Tayside organization, and twenty years later in 2009, five homes in the Perth area provide a safe, supported independent living environment for 28 people with intellectual disabilities, drawn from across Lanark County. The latest of these, Cameron House, opened on Jan. 11.

Tayside’s original mandate grew as well to include the provision of decent, safe affordable housing on Rogers Road. Eighteen townhouses or apartments, three with wheelchair access, along with a community space and kitchen, were constructed on a non-profit basis

Its third mandate is the provision of  high quality licensed child care. The TayCare program provides age-appropriate, nurturing care for 131 children ranging in age from infancy to 12 years of age, drawing children from the town of Perth and neighbouring municipalities.

Child care is divided between the TayCare Centre on Wilson Street and facilities at St. John’s High School. Child care subsidies are geared to income – that is, based on the family’s income, Lanark County provides the family with a fee subsidy up to the full cost of care.

Dave Hagerman, Tayside’s executive director, discusses the financing required to run the non-profit organization.

“Our major source of funds for the group homes , our only real source of funds of financial support is provincial funding of the group homes,” he says. “Pretty much 100 per cent of the operating budget for the group homes is provided through the Ministry of Community and Social Services.

“Now for the child care, about 20 per cent of our funds come from subsidies funded through the provincial government but administered by Lanark County, but The other 80 per cent comes from the parents paying the fee, and The town of Perth pays supports the child care with an annual contribution of $20,000 a year towards the child care, that helps with the operating budget and  is extremely important in making child care more affordable for many Perth families.”

Hagerman is prepared for challenging financial times, to be outlined in the provincial budgets which usually occur in April.

“The economic circumstances will affect agencies like ours,” he says, “in the sense that the provincial government’s revenues will go down because of the slow-down in the economy … they then cut back on their expenses so there will be pressure in the future, and we are expecting this. So there may be pressures in terms of salary increases for the staff, and in terms of being able to upkeep the homes to the standards that we would like.”

But for Hagerman the news need not be all doom and gloom, explaining that in a recent federal stimulus package, there was almost a billion dollars committed to social housing, encouraging news because Tayside also has its social, non-profit housing portfolio on Rogers Road.

“If there are funds available for the construction of social housing,” he says, “we would be definitely interested in exploring those opportunities, and in the federal package as well,” he continues, “there was a considerable amount of money to provide housing to people with disabilities which is exactly what we do.”

However, Hagerman sees another angle to the story that involves not so much the people now being sheltered in Tayside’s assisted living homes. He’s fairly confident that they’ll be well taken care of even if things deteriorate economically, which they’re likely to do.

He says that the provincial government is committed to supported community living for people with intellectual disabilities as opposed to placing them in large institutions like the Rideau Regional Centre. “That’s just the way that our society has decided to go in providing care for folks that are that so vulnerable,” he says.

The other angle to the story is the problem of so many more people on waiting lists with similar disabilities who do not have access to facilities like Tayside. Their need is quite desperate and when they approach Tayside, or what is called the ‘Pressures and Priorities list’ (a group of all the agencies in Lanark County) they say that they need a group home to care for their family members.

“We have to tell them, ‘I’m sorry there are none, you’ll just have to cope.’ Some of these families are just stretched to the limit. It’s a full time job looking after these folks and sometimes you need specialized type of training and ability beyond the love of a parent or a brother or sister.”

Hagerman says that if he had a wish list, then coming right to the top would be to have capital and operating funds to build a couple more group homes, providing a place first for all the children who need them, and then for the disabled adults whose aging parents can no longer care for them.

He has a particular concern for these aging parents who have been caring for their disabled children for many years, saving the government money by caring for them themselves and not placing them in institutions. “But in their time of need,” says Hagerman, “there’s nothing there for them. It’s very sad.”

More information on the Tayside Community Options can be found at  www.tayside.ca.

 

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