By Jim Timlick
Epic Opportunities will soon offer a new model of service to the people we serve and their families.
Beginning next spring, Epic Opportunities will begin offering a home share program as part of the services we offer to people with intellectual disabilities and their families. The home share service will be in addition to existing services already offered through our Epic Everyday, Epic at Work, Epic Everyday and Epic Transition services.
The idea of home sharing has been around for some time, but is a relatively new concept when it comes to community living here in Manitoba. Essentially, it sees families or individuals sharing their home on an everyday basis with an adult living with a disability who wants to live in an independent, community-based setting.
Service Development Coordinator Jennifer Welsh and Senior Manager Carleigh McKay say Epic Opportunities began investigating the possibility of offering a home share model earlier this year after its primary funding partner, Community Living disABILITY Service (CLDS), began promoting the concept.
“It’s about us evolving to meet the needs of the people we serve,” McKay says.
As part of the home share concept, an individual or couple open their home to a person living with a physical or intellectual disability and serve as that person’s caregiver. In return, the caregivers receive a monthly caregiver benefit through Employment and Income Assistance (EIA) as well as a per diem to cover additional costs such as transportation.
Welsh says home sharing is about more than just providing a place for someone to live. It’s also about creating mutually beneficial relationships that offer both people served by Epic Opportunities and prospective caregivers an opportunity to grow and learn from each other.
McKay wholeheartedly agrees.
“There is so much to be gained from these kinds of relationships,” she says. “It’s a really one-of-a-kind relationship. You can both grow together. What an amazing opportunity for the people we serve and for individuals who want to embark on this journey with them.”
Epic Opportunities will soon begin recruiting prospective caregivers to join its home share program. As part of those efforts, it will begin advertising on a number of websites, including www.epicmb.ca, as part of a public education campaign.
Welsh says there will be a number of checks and balances in place to ensure that potential caregivers are properly vetted and are a suitable match for people served by Epic Opportunities. That will include a criminal records check, a personal inspection of each home by agency staff and a Structured Analysis Family Evaluation (S.A.F.E) evaluation of a home’s physical and social environment. In addition, each caregiver will be required to participate in training sessions provided by Epic Opportunities on a variety of subjects including positive behavioral supports, non-violent crisis intervention and the ethics of touch.
“I think the process will really provide all the check and balances we need to move forward and ensure people are in a safe and caring environment,” Welsh adds.
As part of its preparations for providing the new service, Epic Opportunities has consulted with a number of other community service provides to learn about their experiences with home sharing. Those efforts, spearheaded by Human Resources Coordinator Kristin Knockaert and Welsh, will help to determine the processes and framework that will help determine how best to deliver the service, Welsh adds.
Welsh stresses the new service isn’t intended to replace any of the existing services already offered by Epic Opportunities, but rather complement them as part of a person-centred approach to serving people and their families.
For more information about Epic Opportunities’ Home Share service contact Service Development Coordinator Jennifer Welsh at 204-953-3514 or firstname.lastname@example.org.