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Wednesday, 05 October 2011 14:48

Angel House a unique project for Swift Current

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By Matthew Liebenberg — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

From outside it looks like just another home in a Swift Current neighbourhood.

There are three bedrooms, a fully developed basement and a huge backyard with a six-foot fence to keep the children who stay here safe when they are outside. but Angel House is different from any other home in the province. It is a unique initiative by Southwest Homes Inc. to provide a long-term place of shelter for three special needs children.

An important new phase in the home’s existence was reached recently when Southwest Homes purchased a property. Until now the project has been operating out of a rented property, but the space was not sufficient to meet their needs.

According to Susie Eidem, Southwest Homes executive director, it was an important step in providing a caring and home-like atmosphere for the three children, who are between the ages of six and 12 years.

“This way, we know that we’ll be able to provide stable housing for the kids. They’ll have a home to grow up in and it will be like all the other kids in town have a place they know is their home.”

The agency has made a long-term commitment to care for the children until adulthood, when they will most likely move into a group home in the adult program.

“It’s a very important thing for children with disabilities to have the same sense of home as other people,” she explained.

“Even though we can’t provide a family, we can at least provide the stability that will help them to grow.”

The grand opening of Angel House on  Sept. 27 was made possible with capital funding of $125,000 from the Government of Saskatchewan to assist with the purchase and renovation of the facility.

“The government was interested in trying something different and that shows they’re willing to look outside the box to meet the needs of the communities and of the kids that we serve,” Eidem said. “It certainly is new ground we’re treading and it’s exciting to be part of something like that.”

This is the only home for children in the Southwest Homes residential program, which includes four other homes for adults. Angel House was created in November 2008 when the agency partnered with Social Services to start the program in a one-bedroom apartment.

“We were doing in-home respite for a family and when the needs of the child exceeded what the family could provide they contacted Social Services and said they needed more permanent support for her,” Eidem explained.

Because of the demand for such a program that provides full-time support to special needs children, they moved to a rental home in June 2009 and two more children were included. Angel House is staffed 24 hours a day and night shift staff is awake to provide one-on-one support to the children.

“There just isn’t enough foster homes and the children we have, have been bounced from house to house because of their high needs and their behavioural challenges,” Eidem said. “Families just couldn’t provide support long term.”

One of the rooms in their newly-purchased property is being refitted for use as a sensory play room. A large financial donation made it possible for Southwest Homes to acquire the equipment necessary for the room.

“All three of the kids have sensory issues that we are hoping to make better by allowing them to have the sensory space,” Eidem said.

“We’re hoping to also expand and allow other children in the city to benefit from that room as well.”

An important focus of the care provided at Angel House is to let the children fit into the community through participation in different activities. To ensure a good relationship with neighbours, Southwest Homes staff will also spoke to the nearest neighbours about the group home when they purchase a property. According to Eidem, the community has been supportive of their group homes.

“The community is very receptive and have a very good heart,” she said. “It’s great to be part of this community.”

Southwest Homes has been in existence since 1973. Their mission is to empower people with intellectual disabilities to achieve their goals and to be valued members of the community. They currently have about 50 clients and a staff of about 60 people.

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