A flood of emotion is running through Lavington following unexpected news that a long-term care centre is shutting its doors.
Lavington’s Willowbrook Services for Community Living, which houses adults with developmental disabilities, will close March 31.
“The residents are being displaced from their home,” said Martiene Watts, program co-ordinator at the care home, which houses 13 residents. “A lot of them have been here for 30 years.”
Watts is also one of approximately 25 staff members who have lost their job.
“I’m OK, but I stress about everybody else,” said Watts. “In this town care aid jobs are far and few between.”
Community Living B.C., the government funding body for Willowbrook, caught staff and families off guard with the announcement that residents will be moved into smaller settings.
“It was a very stressful day. Everybody was crying,” said Watt, adding that relationships are being broken with people and even some pets (which aren’t able to move with their owners).
A spokesperson from CLBC (not wanting to be named) states: “CLBC determined that it is in the best interests of the residents of the home to transition them to more personalized residential placements that meet their needs and ensure their wellbeing.”
John Brewster, owner of Brewster Healthcare Group which has the operating contract for Willowbrook, understands the government’s desire to move out of large group homes and try to place residents into smaller settings. While the model works for some, he isn’t sure it is right for those at Willowbrook.
“It’s hard to disrupt a number of residents that have been there for so long,” said Brewster, adding that many of Willowbrook’s residents rely on a more clinical and familiar setting. “Now they’re being uprooted.”
CLBC says it is working closely with the individuals and families to plan the transition to new arrangements that meet each person’s needs and preferred home environment. This could include home sharing, staffed residential, or supported living.
Meanwhile friendships and bonds are being broken, not just at the centre, but within the community.
“They have real relationships with one another, and real roots in this community. To break up the home is to rip apart family and tear up roots,” said Lavington Baptist Church pastor David Bunn, who sees a number of the residents at his services. “I understand that large homes are no longer the philosophy of CLBC, but that doesn’t make this move without cost.”
The congregation and community as a whole has come to know and love Willowbrook’s residents.
“Lavington needs people like those in Willowbrook in the community,” said Bunn, adding that having them in the community and the church has been a blessing. “In a way that I can’t put into words, they have been an incredible encouragement to our people and have taught us a few things about living.”
The timing is also concerning, since CLBC only gave itself 60 days to find suitable homes and arrange for the move of all the residents.
“They’ve given themselves such a short time frame,” said Watts, adding that there’s a possibility not all the matches will work and some residents may have to be moved around until they can find a home or situation that meets their needs.
In the end, those who know Willowbrook’s residents say the announcement has come as an unfair shock.
“If they had a chance to speak, if they were given a vote, they would want to stay home,” said Bunn.