A non-profit agency dedicated to improving the lives of the developmentally disabled is moving towards the next step in independence.
As of Dec. 1, the North Okanagan Community Life Society will continue to assist individuals and families but it will no longer operate a group home or day program. Provincial funding will also be eliminated.
“The message we’re hearing is teens and adults don’t want to go into congregated services. They want a typical life like everyone else,” said Garry Molitwenik, executive director.
“They want to work. They want to live. Our goal is to fulfill these dreams.”
NOCLS began in 1984 after the developmentally disabled were deinstitutionalized, and it provided group homes and a day centre.
But in 2004, the agency shifted towards customized living where individuals are in their own homes with support. That led to three group homes closing. As of Dec. 1, NOCLS will continue to own the remaining group home, which has four residents, but it will be operated by a contractor. The day centre will also be operated by a contractor or if the space is not wanted for that use, it will be rented out.
“People are in their own homes and they’re not using the day centre. They’re out in the community,” said Molitwenik.
The changes mean NOCLS will go from 30 to three employees.
“The intent is to keep the existing home and staff with the new contractor. It amounts to an administration change,” said Molitwenik.
The shift in focus will also mean about $2 million in provincial funding will disappear. The society will survive off rental income from the individual homes it owns and fundraising.
In fact, fundraising will grow in importance.
“They are going to need beds and couches to get started,” said Molitwenik of individuals moving into their own homes.
Molitwenik insists the new model was developed after consultation with families and the government.
“We will help them plan,” said Molitwenik of families. “We can go into the schools and talk to parents and plan for different living arrangements.”
NOCLS will assist families with budgets when their child moves into their own home.
“Advocacy will also be a key part and without government funding, we will be far more effective.” said Molitwenik.
Molitwenik is confident the new structure will allow those with developmental disabilities to be independent.
‘“How do we relinquish control and let people have control of their lives while still walking with them?” he said.