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This article was published 22/8/2014 (2257 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Jaylene Woloshyn lives with her mother, Gloria Woloshyn, like most 19-year-olds. But Jaylene has Prader-Willi syndrome, a physical and intellectual disability, which means she will need supervision for her entire life.
For Woloshyn, that's a full-time job. The condition is characterized by facial deformities, an insatiable appetite, low muscle tone and cognitive disabilities.
And at 61, Woloshyn is starting to think about who will take over when she's gone.
Community living is one of the choices, but with chronic underfunding and underpaid staff who routinely leave to seek jobs elsewhere, she is not certain it is the answer.
"Part of my mission is to start having her cared for more by other people, and to start helping her be more independent," Woloshyn said.
It would concern me if she goes into it and the paid staff may not care for her'‐ Gloria Woloshyn, on her daughter, Jaylene
"It would concern me if she goes into it and the paid staff may not care for her."
The idea of community living is adults living together, receiving care and support from trained workers who do a range of jobs, from tending to medical needs to dealing with interpersonal conflicts. Residents have the freedom of living on their own, while still receiving support from professionals.
High staff turnover makes the system problematic. Underpaid workers can make more money brewing coffee at Starbucks.
In a report issued last April entitled The Community Living Funding Crisis in Westman and Parkland, Megan McKenzie said four of 15 non-profit agencies, in two regions of western Manitoba, stood on the brink of financial collapse, largely because of low wages. Staff in the areas stood to make more money working in nearby oil fields.
Average wages stand at $12.06, and some staff are paid as little as $11. An hourly wage between $15 to $17 is the minimum needed to make a living.
"It's a very systemic problem. That was very clear to me. It showed a complete breakdown in the system," McKenzie said.
Malinda Roberts, president of Abilities Manitoba, said the problems ripple across the province.
"You go up north and you'll hear similar stories. You go to the Interlake and you'll hear similar stories. It's a provincewide issue," Roberts said.
The funding issue creates a self-feeding circle of problems, Roberts said, with underpaid workers also leaving in fields like medical care. High turnover hurts residents, who often depend on the relationships they develop with staff.
"Much of the work that we do is based on relationships. You get to know the people that you support. If I have different staff come in every week, you don't need to be a person with an intellectual disability (for it to) have an impact," she said.
Woloshyn said Jaylene needs a steady relationship with care workers.
"It takes her time to trust somebody. And when she trusts somebody and can develop a good relationship, then I know she'll be happy. But there's been such a turnover in staff, it's always a challenge," she said.
Roberts said she feels the difficulties of staff getting paid so poorly.
"I get we're in the non-profit sector... but you should be making enough money to feed your family," she said.
Compounding the issue is the difficulty in securing access to community living, particularly for those living with parents.
"If they're not in crisis, they can expect to live at home with their parents for a much longer time," said Janet Forbes, executive director of Community Living Winnipeg. "We see some families with elderly parents, their sons and daughters are still living with them and sometimes reaching their senior years too."
Funding troubles have degenerated into labour disputes. A strike call by workers at Selkirk Community Living was postponed after the government announced it would provide $6 million to raise hourly wages from $13 to $14 by 2017. Selkirk Community Living declined to comment pending a final resolution of the dispute, and Manitoba Family Services said it would issue no further statements.
Roberts welcomed the fresh funds, but said it's unlikely they would make a significant dent.
"We're concerned that $6 million isn't enough to make a meaningful change," she said.
Abilities Manitoba is set to issue a report next month on community living.
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