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Families upset as ARC Industries adult group day program ends permanently

Community Living Guelph Wellington says the changes are part of a comprehensive new Strategic Plan to improve services it offers
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ARC Industries on Royal Road. GuelphToday

Several parents of adults with developmental disabilities are very upset by Community Living Guelph Wellington's decision to permanently end the adult day program at ARC Industries as part of a restructuring of its services.

Last week, CLGW released its Strategic Plan for the next three years in which it was apparent that CLGW will not be running their in-person programs at ARC Industries, a multipurpose building that ran the adult day program for adults with developmental disabilities who require support 24 hours a day. 

This did not sit well with many families. 

“They're saying they’re restructuring but they haven't any idea exactly what they’re going to be offering,” said Deloris Yaskowich, a 90-year-old mother who takes care of her 52-year-old daughter who has Down syndrome.

She said she and many others in the community with developmental disabilities family members are very upset with the restructuring of the program. 

“We’re certainly saddened and sick at heart because of this news,” said Yaskowich. She said she found out about the closure of ARC through a note posted by CLGW after an online zoom meeting for adults with developmental disabilities was cancelled. She said they were never officially notified of the change of services at ARC Industries. 

“A lot of us worked very hard to put this up,” said Yaskowich. She added that ARC originally began as a workshop in a church basement where family members could go during the day. Once they outgrew that space, the community rallied together to create a new one.

“Finally we raised enough money to put up the building.” 

She said for a number of years, the people at ARC completed contract work for companies such as putting toothpaste in tubes, putting pieces of toys together, and fixing the paper on hotel soap.

“They were not getting a large wage but for our people, that wasn’t the issue. It was having a place to go,” said Yaskowich adding that it added structure to their life by going to a physical building at a designated time and interacting with people they can connect with and those that understand them. 

Yaskowich said the families were given assurance a few years ago that ARC would remain for group activities.

But now, Yaskowich said they feel betrayed. 

“We were the ones who raised money and put up ARC Industries,” said Yaskowich.

“We parents have worked a lot for our people and it really upsets us that because of COVID, yes people have not been able to go but they were all looking forward to going back.”

Yaskowich said there are many parents with children who are very dependent on physically going to ARC industries. 

“They had to get up every morning, they had to catch the bus, they met their friends, their peers, these are people that, some of them have been together since the Rotary Children’s Centre. That was 50 years ago,” said Yaskowich.

“It’s a sad, sad situation. It’s disappointing, it's angering,” said Yaskowich.

“I am just one of many because there are many parents who share my feelings.”

CLGW executive director Laura Hanley said this is the beginning of a process of a three-year strategic plan that took 18 months to create while consulting with selected focus groups in the community. 

“Our day services would not be opening anyways and they would not open in the foreseeable future knowing what we all know about COVID,” said Hanley about the ARC Industries that closed as a result of the pandemic on March 16. 

“We feel like there's a whole range of things we need to be looking at and now’s the time to be planning that.”

She said CLGW offered a survey with a series of questions, had telephone conversations with a number of families and will continue to do so in order to create services tailored to individuals. 

“As part of that we talked about instead of congregating day services which would be in the building, we want to deliver services differently,” said Hanley.

She said ARC was tied to the shelter workshop that closed in 2017 as a result of different directions from the province. 

“Historically, we’ve created exclusive spaces for people with disabilities in congregate settings which was right to do at the time, it worked, it served its purpose but we believe in full citizenship for people whatever it looks like for them. It's about them and how do we wrap services around them to help them live their most meaningful life,” said Hanley. 

As for the ARC Industries building, Hanley said CLGW's strategy is to discuss with stakeholders what the building should be used for going forward. 

"I don't know at this point what we would use them for," said Hanley adding that the team is currently in the process of reaching out to stakeholders to discuss what to do with the building.  

Hanley said she understands that change is difficult for many families.

“We’ve given them a survey, we’ve asked the questions, we’ve got people calling out to say where are your gaps, what do you need and so I think the struggle with communication is that it might not have been clear enough or maybe it was weak,” said Hanley. 

Marie Gazzola, whose daughter has an intellectual disability, said her daughter has been going to ARC Industries for over 30 years. 

“Every day faithfully she's been looking forward to it. It was where she wanted to be,” said Gazzola.

With COVID-19, Gazzola said it's not been easy for her daughter who misses her friends and structure in her life. 

“We felt bad for her. We’re getting up there in age as well. We’re not going to live forever. We were hoping once COVID-19 was over, things would get back to where they used to be,” said Gazzola. 

Donna Christie, a teacher for adults with developmental disabilities in the community said while there will be other programs in place, the programs won’t even come close to make up for what the adults with developmental disabilities are losing, a physical building to congregate in. 

“Parents are now saying to me, 'Who knows their adult child better than they do?'” said Christie. 

“They say they're not closing it but they are. They want to eliminate day programs, they want to eliminate the possibilities of our people, our wonderful adults congregating together.”


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Anam Khan

About the Author: Anam Khan

Anam Khan is a journalist who covers numerous beats in Guelph and Wellington County that include politics, crime, features, environment and social justice
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