By Jasmine Franklin
The subdivision and development appeal board will decide if the first ever women’s Champion’s Centre will open its doors or remain just an idea for Ponoka.
On April 26, supporters and appellants of the proposed second Champion’s Centre gathered in front of an appeal board to voice their opinions. The main issue was in regards to the lack of 24-hour care required by law to be provided in the home.
“The big concern is not whether I like this or not,” said adjacent neighbour Fay Wright. “The women that are going to be there need to have the proper care and be looked after. A group home doesn’t need just any staff, but qualified staff.”
Jeff Hanger, Champion’s Centre interim director for the national board, said a select screening process of potential residents reduces the need for 24-hour supervision in the home.
“These residents are the same as you and me — they just need a little support in certain areas. They do not need 24-hour care and our screening process has assured that,” Hanger said. “They can semi-independent live. They only need support in certain areas and this home is aimed to keep them a part of the community and this Champion’s Centre is widely needed in this town. The need is so great.”
Why the decision was in front of an appeal board
On Feb. 24, letters were distributed to neighbours and landowners in the area to disclose the new purpose for the home located on 38th Street. The home would be changed from a single family dwelling to a group home.
The letter revealed details about the home: it would house five paying residents over the age of 50 years old, a manager would supervise a minimum of 15 hours per week to help with medications, budgeting and cooking. A lead resident would be assigned for times when the manager is not present, and the home would not be used as an emergency shelter. Children would not be permitted to stay in the home.
Letters to inform the public is mandatory when changing the purpose of a home under the current zoning. Because the home is classified as a single family dwelling, it sits under an R2 zoning that permits group homes as a discretionary use. Since the group home is discretionary and not permitted, neighbours had to be informed — five appellants were present at the meeting while Wright said she represented seven families and one letter was sent directly to the town all in opposition of the idea. Five individuals in favour of the centre were present at the meeting.
The proposal was rejected by the Town of Ponoka’s development authority March 16 for not complying with the bylaw requiring, a group home to have 24-hour care.
“The Champion’s Centre cannot provide 24-hour care, seven days per week. It’s impossible. We just do not have that kind of funding,” Meloni Lyon, national Champion’s Centre interim chairperson, told the appeal board. “These people do not need this much care, the budgeted 15-hour minimum is suitable for the residents we have screened. That being said, we aren’t saying we won’t increase the hours of management if there is a need to do so but the residents have the capability to ring up (Hanger), or a fire department if something goes wrong. They can function in a community, they just need a little help.”
To supply 24 -hour care, Hanger said the centre would need funding for three staff, eight hours per day.
The home would not function as the previous Champion’s Centre in Ponoka, which is classified as a rooming house and holds up to 13 men, most with mental complications. Hanger said for females, it seemed plausible that the living situation would work better with limited people and requires a different structure than the one in place at the current Champion’s Centre. This includes the ability for Hanger to evict the female residents who do not follow rules including no drugs or alcohol in the home, no smoking and keeping noise levels at a decent level.
Hanger said the residents all have their strengths and weaknesses and this kind of support home allows them to be independent while having an easy outlet to receive the resources they need.
Wright however stayed firm on her position.
“I worked with special needs individuals or 29 years. Their intentions may be good however you can’t possibly check a house without permanent, consistent staff,” she said. “And it’s unfair to put these people there without that.”
The board has until May 11 to make a decision.