Kamsack Timesreaders may remember a story from July 2020 regarding 14 vacant lots located on the north east side of town, near the new water tower. An expression of interest was issued by the town to field suggestions for best use of the space.
Some ideas were floated – among them was a group of energy efficient tiny homes. Although a number of developers expressed a desire to design and build, none of the companies were willing to run the operation beyond the construction phase.
Enter local teacher and town councillor, Darren Kitsch. With a vision that had been brewing for more than ten years with fellow teacher and councillor Claire Bishop, the pair saw an opportunity to pitch their concept of a group home for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Group homes are staffed to providedaily training and vocational programs, living accommodations, and supportive independent living for adults with intellectual disabilities. Typically, they are located in residential neighbourhoods throughout the province.
“I’ve spent many years working with students from grade K-12 and I have especially enjoyed working with students who have special needs,” said Kitsch. “I’ve also had the opportunity of getting to know these students through teaching private music lessons and through other activities in our town. And once these kids become adults, we have identified a lack of options for independent living as well as vocational training and life skills programming in Kamsack.”
Garden Valley Ventures Inc. is a newly formed non-profit organization that would provide direct service programming and housing to persons with cognitive and physical disabilities in the Kamsack area. Kitsch envisioned The Garden Valley Place – Group Home on the aforementioned vacant lots.
Kitsch says the first phase of this Kamsack project would be to create a large support services building that could house the group home programming, with some on-site living accommodations to maximize funding and service delivery. Future building of additional independent homes on site would serve tenants with complex needs who may require supports to secure and maintain housing and independent living. Kitsch suggests these additional buildings could be smaller single residences, or larger homes that would have two to three bedrooms with shared kitchen/living quarters.
“These homes/community will provide a safe and stable living environment, along with the supports the residents require to participate more fully in life and build a better future,” offered Kitsch.
Kitsch explained that Garden Valley Ventures Inc. would offer day programming for its tenants, as well as residents of Kamsack who choose to live with family. This programming would include life skills, social, recreation and work experience programming.
Garden Valley Ventures Inc. has recently taken over the operation of the Sparty’s Thrift Store in Kamsack to facilitate job training and work skills as part of our programming through the store.
“The local thrift store will allow us to implement programming that offers work experience and life skills training,” explained Kitsch. “Those who participate will learn how to process donations, stock shelves, and interact with customers in a retail setting. We feel this opportunity could lead to increased confidence, a sense of community, and a sense of life purpose for participants.”
“Not only would a project like this address a need for housing for those with disabilities, it also has the potential to stimulate our local economy,” asserted Kitsch. “As an example, a group home in Grandview, Man. offers 24-hour care and employs between 30 and 50 people.”
Once program participants have been identified, Kitsch says funding can be triggered through provincial government programs. Community Living Service Delivery (CLSD) is a branch of the Ministry of Social Services that works with people with intellectual disabilities and helps them access a variety of community-based services. Self-Directed Funding (SDF) is a funding option. According to the government website, it is not a type of service or a program. Rather, it is an option where funding is provided directly to adults with intellectual disabilities so they can have increased choice and control over the supports and services that best suit their needs.
The provincial website states that a person can access SDF for housing supports, day programming, or both. The individual manages their own funding with the support of the representative(s) of their choice. With help from these supporters, individuals receiving SDF will identify their needs and develop a person-centred plan that describes how their needs can be met in the community.
Garden Valley Ventures Inc. has recently incorporated as a non-profit organization and announced a board of directors. The team hopes to identify interested parties who would like to take part in the day programming and eventually live in the group home, once constructed.
“This board consists of really talented people who have a heart for serving others in our community,” said Kitsch. “Together with CLSD, we will be hosting an open house on April 22 at 7:00 p.m. Interested families who wish to hear more about the project and ask questions can either attend in person at Room 204 at the Crowstand Center or virtually through Zoom.”
Kitsch serves as president, Michelle Irvine as vice president, Claire Bishop as treasurer, Nicola Straub as secretary, and Glenda Tulloch and Rob MacDonald are directors of the board.
Kitsch said details regarding the open house can be found on the Sparty’s Thrift Store Facebook page, and anyone looking to offer support for the project is welcome to contact him or any board member directly.
“We are excited about the opportunity to create a safe caring environment where individuals with disabilities will be able to thrive and have a high quality of life,” shared Kitsch.