Letter writer must not know the history of Manitoulin Community Living

To the Expositor:

It is hard for me to know where to begin in responding to Mr. Taylor’s letter (‘Mindemoya taxpayer concerned with housing options,’ June 20, page 4). It has taken me some time to allow my anger to subside to a point that I am able to respond at all. Time has allowed me to realize that I am responding to an individual who lacks knowledge of Community Living Manitoulin’s history, mission, the individuals that we serve, and the contribution that they and Community Living Manitoulin make, to the social and economic quality of life on the Island. While I am a great defender of our collective right to freedom of speech, the letter written by Mr. Taylor and printed by The Expositor has caused our community and the individuals and families that we serve, great distress and pain.

So for your benefit, Mr. Taylor, here is a bit of history.

Community Living Manitoulin was created in 1950 by a group of parents from the Island who refused to send their children with a developmental challenge to an institution. The parents wanted their children living on the Island and attending school, the same as other children. These parents focused their attention on a modified school program. As the program grew, a need arose for the introduction of a work environment for the participants. In 1976 they incorporated as a not-for-profit/charitable corporation, formed their first Board of Directors and proposed the idea of a work farm to the Ministry of Community and Social Services. The proposal called for purchasing a farm and beginning a program for adults with developmental challenges. In 1979 the agency purchased the Hope Farm that had a residence and was a working farm. In 1980, the first three residents moved into the Hope Farm residence and the farm was in full operation.

The association’s goal was integration; this meant including individuals with developmental challenges into the community, providing an opportunity to live as everyone else in society, having the same rights as anyone else, and being empowered to make personal choices just like all other Canadians. The philosophy of inclusion, integration, respect, dignity and personal empowerment are core principals of our work as a board, staff and volunteers.

In 1994, the board purchased its first residence. This home was initially a Supported Independent Living residence with staff supporting four individuals. This residence is now home to five individuals. In 1998 the board purchased a second residence. This is home to six individuals today.

In 2005 Maple Terrace, a new barrier-free residence, was completed to accommodate individuals moving into the community from provincial institutions that were being closed. Maple Terrace housed five individuals and one respite bed, and provides services to individuals with higher medical and physical care needs. Maple Terrace was expanded to house eight individuals and one respite bed in 2006.

Also in 2005, the agency began a Transitional Program for young adults age 18-25 with developmental challenges. This program helps with the transition from school to adult services, such as employment, and independent living.

In 2006 the consignment store (Everything Under The Sun) expanded and moved to its existing location on Highway 542 in Mindemoya. This created five new spaces in the Life Skills program.

In 2008 the agency began a program that supported individuals living in their own home called the Supported Independent Living program. This program provides support to individuals who chose to live independently in their own apartment.

Also in 2008, the Hope Terrace residence opened. Hope Terrace is a barrier-free home that is home to six individuals and a respite bed. The Hope Terrace residence replaced the old Hope Farm residence.

Today, Community Living Manitoulin operates four group homes, a supported independent living program, a life skills program, a supported employment program, a consignment store and a respite program.

Community Living Manitoulin is part of a province wide network of service providers, led by community volunteers, who provide a range of support services for adults with developmental challenges. Every one of these communities are unique and their members remind us that we are all human and that we all need the support of our communities to live with respect and dignity.

On September 25, 2012, Community Living Manitoulin will hold its annual general meeting. Please watch The Expositor for more details. In addition, this fall we will be launching a strategic planning process to set the course for the development of our mission for the next five years. We look forward to the participation of our many community partners as we seek ways to improve and grow the delivery of innovative support systems and programs for the individuals that we serve.

On behalf of the 60 individuals that we support, their parents and family, our committed volunteer Board of Directors, our dedicated staff and the many, many Islanders that understand and support our work, I sincerely hope that Mr. Taylor can find it within himself to offer a public apology.

Sincerely,

John Caruso, executive director

Community Living Manitoulin