Jo-Ann Spellman said she has been struggling for years without success to find her son proper housing and support in Terrace.
Her efforts were often met with resistance from Community Living B.C., the government agency that administers services to adults with developmental disabilities, she said.
“I sit with CLBC, we have these meetings, they come up with a plan, I’m given these assurances — and they always drop the ball.”
But after the Times Colonist began making inquiries, CLBC appeared to take steps to deal with the issues.
Faith Bodnar, who advocates on behalf of people with developmental disabilities, said Community Living B.C. is now working with her and others to put support in place for Spellman’s son.
“That’s not to say we can sit back now,” said Bodnar, executive director of the B.C. Association for Community Living.
While encouraged by the developments, Spellman questioned why she had to contact the media to get action.
“All of a sudden, now that I’ve stepped forward and done this, lo and behold, they’re offering me all these things,” she said.
“Well, how come I didn’t get offered this before?”
Spellman said days off from work were often spent travelling from Prince Rupert to Terrace to deal with crises in her son’s life.
The young man, who does not want his name published, has a rare disorder called DiGeorge Syndrome, which left him with a heart defect and learning disabilities.
Several times, he was placed in homes with people with more severe disabilities than his.
As a result, he would sabotage the situation and get thrown out, his mother said. He sometimes ended up in a shelter or on the street.
Spellman said Community Living B.C. never delivered on a promise to find him a spot in “cluster” housing, where people with developmental disabilities have support but live independently in apartments.
Her son also started using alcohol and prescription drugs to self-medicate, and now requires substance-abuse treatment in addition to permanent housing, she said.
The crisis peaked earlier this year when her son had heart surgery in Vancouver.
He was promised housing in Terrace after the operation but, the day before his release, the family was told that, once again, there was no place for him, Spellman said.
He eventually moved into a motel about five kilometres from town, though the money he received from government wasn’t enough to cover the rent.
His family topped up the monthly payments with an extra $460, in addition to providing money for food.
Spellman has high praise for the local agency that has taken over her son’s file.
But she said the government’s failure to step up took its toll on her family.
“We are strapped financially because of it, and we’re exhausted mentally and emotionally, and I can’t do it any more,” she said.
Privacy rules prevent Community Living B.C. from discussing specific cases without the family’s consent.
But Bodnar said that CLBC has committed to paying the living expenses for Spellman’s son, reimbursing the family for the money they have paid to date and finding a permanent housing solution.
They will also arrange substance-abuse treatment that meets his needs, she said.
Speaking generally, CLBC spokesman David Hurford said the agency’s first priority is the health and safety of its clients.
Officials try to respond to complaints quickly and make improvements as needed, he said.
“Our job, as we see it, is to be as responsive as possible to those complaints and make sure that when they do come in, that we’re looking at them closely, talking to the families that are involved and then responding accordingly,” he said.
Hurford said CLBC has taken a number of steps to improve its services, including an updated conflict of interest policy, enhanced staff training and a recently announced review of home-sharing services.
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