The Shuswap Association for Community Living is very much alive.
Due to government cutbacks and a change in how services are provided to 79 clients with intellectual disabilities, the association has moved from west Salmon Arm to a downtown location.
“People think that because we’ve moved, we’re no longer in operation,” says SACL’s executive director Jo-Anne Crawford. “I think part of that is because our traditional perception in the community was based on sheltered workshops, but we provide services to more individuals now than six years ago.”
Located in the Andover Building on Hudson Avenue across from the post office, SACL operates employment and community volunteer programs on the third floor.
The recreation program operates from a large room on the first floor.
“People get together in the morning to plan their day, with different groups going to do whatever,” says Crawford, noting the youngest client is 28 and the oldest is 78. “They do what they want within the parameters of the group, they come back at lunch and then head out again.”
Crawford says individual clients are becoming more involved in the community.
While they no longer have the corporate recycling program, clients volunteer in groups or alone, while others work with SACL staff support.
“Groups work at the Churches Thrift Store and the food bank,” says Crawford, noting Salvation Army community co-ordinator Dave Byers has told her SACL clients form half of his food bank volunteers.
“We’re always looking for volunteer opportunities.”
Crawford says the feedback from clients has been very positive now they are “part of the crowd.”
“They’re definitely saying they’re enjoying it,” she says. “Instead of having the group segregated, we get them out in community, they’re involved and making friends.”
Clients are also matched up with a staff person for a varying number of hours depending on individual needs – support that could enable them to live successfully on their own or to integrate into community according to their abilities.
“We have one client that needed support for going to college,” Crawford says, noting that the level of support also varies with what’s going on in clients’ lives.
And SACL’s employment program is flourishing says Crawford.
“We support individuals to work at their job and support the employer to work with the individual,” she says, noting 29 people are currently working – some with two or three jobs.
“We’ve been told that our program is a model for the rest of the province,” she says.
SACL also operates an affordable-living triplex at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Fifth Street SE and says the board will host a strategic planning session in the fall to determine what services are needed and can be provided.
In the meantime, the association is celebrating 50 years of providing service in the area, an accomplishment they will mark at the beginning of June.