Brother Battles to Keep Group Homes Open

By Tony Lofaro, The Ottawa Citizen December 7, 2012

Hubert Drouin, left, has sought an injunction with the Ministry of Community and Social Services to keep open the group home that his brother Marc, right, who is developmentally disabled and blind, is living in now.Photograph by: Chris Mikula , The Ottawa CitizenOTTAWA

Hubert Drouin is fighting to keep three Ottawa group homes open for the sake of his younger brother, Marc.

The homes, in the Cityview area near Meadowlands Drive, are operated by Therapeutic Educational Living Centres Inc. (TELCI) a non-profit organization. They may be closed down next year because the Ministry of Community and Social Services is not providing additional funding the operator says it needs to keep them going. The 20 residents of the group homes have developmental disabilities and are visually impaired.

Marc Drouin, 58, has been at TELCI for 24 years and moving to another group home would be extremely difficult, according to his brother, Hubert. Marc has developmental issues, is visually impaired and has other health problems, including cerebral palsy, scoliosis, kidney disease and anxiety disorder.

“None of the residents in the homes can leave on their own, all need to be assisted 24/7,” said Hubert Drouin, 70, who is seeking a court injunction to keep the homes open.

He said the group homes have been “terribly underfunded” by the ministry in recent years and it hasn’t helped that TELCI has gone through eight executive directors in 10 years. He said an operational review by the ministry this year recommended the homes either be taken over by similar social service agencies or their annual budget of $1.5 million be increased.

“If they would have topped off the budget by $150,000 they would have been able to hire properly staff and that would have enabled the organization to move forward and become more efficient. But nothing was done about the second option,” said Drouin.

He’s also disappointed none of the family members of residents were asked their opinions on the operational review. “The three homes are in bad shape, there needs to be some long-term planning but we feel with the proper administrative staff to ensure the quality of care being given to the residents that the organization can be kept together,” said Drouin, adding the group homes have been part of the Cityview community for more than 25 years.

He’s upset family members had to learn the group homes would be closed from another ministry and were not told directly by the Ministry of Community and Social Services. He said the board made the decision to close down the homes about three weeks ago and the families were only informed on Monday.

“This whole thing is about process and the total exclusion of the people who are substitute decision-makers for these residents, and it’s absolutely wrong. They really shouldn’t be talking to my brother about a life-changing scenario without me being present,” said Drouin.

An assessment of the 20 residents to find out their needs and placement options has been postponed until the new year as Drouin fights to prevent the closures. A petition with about 1,000 names is being circulated to keep the homes open, he added.

Sean van Liempt, volunteer chair of the TELCI board of directors, said family members were told about the board’s decision to close down the group homes on Monday and residents were told the next day.

“Like many other agencies in Ontario there is a real challenge of funding and the ministry has told us they don’t have the money on an ongoing basis to go forward,” said van Liempt.

“We feel the situation we’re in is unsustainable and it has been for a significant amount of time,” said van Liempt. “There’s not an imminent plan to close TELCI, it would close once all the residents were placed in the homes and had the services that they were looking for.”

He said some family members are not adverse to moving residents to other group homes where they would feel comfortable.

Charlotte Wilkinson, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Community and Social Services, said the decision to close TELCI was made by the board of directors.

“TELCI received more than $1.5 million in ministry funding last year, this is a 30-per-cent increase since 2007/08,” said Wilkinson in an email. “The services and supports that the residents of TELCI are receiving will continue and will follow them to their new placements.”

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