About The Semiahmoo Foundation

The Semiahmoo Foundation supports and enhance the programs of Semiahmoo House Society, a non-profit organization providing quality services to people with developmental disabilities and their families.

Chief Executive Officer’s Report

Doug Tennant 2015

At Semiahmoo House Society (SHS) our Ends (mission) are to achieve the following:

Global End: People with disabilities live self-directed lives in the community at a justifiable cost:

  1. People are valued members of society;
  2. People decide how they live their lives, and make informed choices;
  3. The rights of people are protected.

During the fiscal year of April 2017 to April 2018, SHS worked hard to ensure that these Ends were met through our services, advocacy, and community relationships. Of significant importance in the achievement of our Ends was our more formalized partnership with our sister societies: The Semiahmoo Foundation (TSF) and Peninsula Estates Housing Society (PEHS). When the three societies work together, we call ourselves UNITI.

Services

Lise Boughen, Director of Inclusive Living, and Liz Deschenes, Director of Community Services, will have more detailed reports on their services in their reports, but I did want to touch lightly on some of SHS’s services in relationship to the Ends (mission) of the organization.

Community Services

The redesign of our Employment Training and Support (ETS) services into services that will transcend a traditional day program and will support the connection of participants with true employment and personal development opportunities, while at the same time supporting social participation in their community was developed and launched during the 2017-2018 fiscal year. The decision to redesign ETS was based on many factors, including the quality of life of the people we support and the need to meet the mandate of our employment services, which is to support people to find work in the community. Participants will take a 4-week Discover

Yourself process that will focus on experiences and personal discovery, with the goal of helping the person decide what employment/personal development/community connections they would like to pursue. ETS has now been divided into Transitions, a time-limited service focused on developing job skills through community and career exploration, and WISE Employment Solutions, an employment service focused on working with job hunters and employers to find successful matches that result in long-term employment in the community.

These changes directly address the following Sub-Ends of SHS:

1.1 People perform different social roles

1.4 People participate in the life of the community

2.4 People choose their work

2.4.1 People have paid employment opportunities

2.4.2 People have volunteer opportunities

Inclusive Living

There’s a very clear shift happening in community living when it comes to housing. People with disabilities (and their families) want to live in homes where they have as much independence as possible and are able to connect with family, friends, employment, and other aspects of their community. Semiahmoo House Society (under the umbrella of UNITI) has led the way in developing affordable and inclusive housing options that benefit the community. Chorus apartments would be an example of this. The apartment was completed in August of 2016 and the tenants have now been living there for close to two years. We have done full check-ins with the tenants supported by SHS who live there at the ½ year and one year anniversaries. The tenants report positive social lives and relationships, feeling welcome in their neighbourhood, and becoming competent in maintaining their own homes, to name but a few of the positive aspects that have resulted from people living in their own apartment. The creation of Chorus and future UNITI affordable and inclusive housing initiatives directly addresses the following Sub-Ends:

1.3 People live in integrated environments

1.4 People participate in the life of the community

2.3 People choose where and with whom they live

2.5 People choose and use their environments

3.6 People experience continuity and security

Advocacy

During the fiscal year 2017/2018, Semiahmoo House Society was very active in advocating for a municipal affordable housing strategy in Surrey that focuses on affordable and inclusive rental housing as we believe that this type of housing will address many of the housing needs for people who have disabilities as well as the needs of the general population in search of quality housing. The recently released Surrey Affordable Housing Strategy (April 2018) focuses on affordable rental housing and the creation of a fund that will be used to support housing projects such as Chorus. This is really good news for our future housing endeavours.

I have long believed that advocacy is best done by the people most directly related to the cause. This was true during the Civil Rights movement, and it is true for the Disability movement. I am very proud that SHS’s provides support to the Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo (SAS) because SAS is doing amazing work in the community. They are making waves because their focus is not so much on themselves but on the needs of the community. They are shifting the power dynamic of disability by using their talents and resources to improve their community. During the past fiscal year they have brought wheelchairs to beaches, grants to all-ability parks, and spoken at a variety of conferences throughout the province. They’ve also met with city councillors, mayors, MLAs, MPs, and the Prime Minister himself while spreading the word that communities need to be physically and socially inclusive of people who have disabilities. Read more about their great work elsewhere in this Annual Report.

Community Relationships

Semiahmoo House Society believes that reciprocity with businesses and community partners creates strong relationships that benefit the community. We are fortunate to have the support of many businesses that hire people with disabilities, sponsor our events, and donate to support our cause. We feel it is important that we also give back to our community in a manner that supports our Ends. In the last fiscal year, our UNITI partner The Semiahmoo Foundation (TSF), created the Semiahmoo House Society Endowment Fund at the YMCA. This fund’s purpose is to support young people who have disabilities to access YMCA camps and services. SHS already support Kwantlen College with an annual scholarship for someone who has a disability to attend courses there. These investments help fulfil the following Sub-Ends:

2.5.2 People have recreational opportunities

2.6 People have educational opportunities

3.2 People have the best possible health

Another way in which SHS’s leadership interacts with their community is through our annual Food for Thought dinners. At these dinners, we invite our owners (which we define as the community) to a meal where we ask them questions that will help our Board develop the Ends of the organization. This past year, we invited local employers and asked the following questions:

  1. What are the challenges that people who have disabilities face and what needs to be done to overcome them?
  2. How can SHS help overcome these challenges?
  3. What is the role of Semiahmoo House Society in building a healthy and inclusive community?
  4. What motivates or would motivate you to provide employment to a person with a disability?

The lively conversation at dinner and thoughtful responses from our guests helped inform the Board about the direction the organization needs to go and helped inform senior staff as we developed our WISE Employment Solutions service.

The paradigm that SHS works from is an extension of the people we support: we want to give back to our partners and supporter and believe that in doing so, we are creating a stronger and more resilient community.

Performance and Quality Improvement

The Society has clearly defined Ends Policies that are created and refined by the Board of Directors through consultation with their owners (the community) and experts in the field, especially people who have disabilities. These Ends are the marching orders for the Executive Director, who must operationalize how the Ends will be achieved without violating legal, moral, or common sense statutes. The Performance and Quality Improvement (PQI) process gathers feedback, analyzes data, and makes recommendations for improvements and growth in achieving our Ends.

Our Ends, which have been featured in this report, typify the lives that people would like to live, which will be different for each person. Therefore, the outcomes of SHS are wholly based on each person’s outcomes, and the aggregate of this will demonstrate if we are achieving our Ends.

In addition to surveying people we support and their families, we build in extensive feedback systems for our staff using Accountability Based Management (ABM) practices, including clear role descriptions and frequent direct report meetings.

In fiscal year 2017/2018, we added an additional level of scrutiny to the work that we do by inviting the Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo to lead a review of our services through the lens of our Global Ends “People with disabilities live self-directed lives in the community at a justifiable cost” and Ends 1 “People are valued members of society.” The Self-Advocates did this by visiting all of our services for people who have disabilities and interviewing individuals and groups of people we support about the aforementioned Ends. The data from these interviews was then gathered, themed, and made into a report that was presented to the Board in January of 2018. This research will be used by the Board when they are thinking about the Ends of the organization and by staff to improve our services. One clear message that came from the consultation was that people we support want new experiences and opportunities. One change that will be coming directly from the consultation is the creation of a Community Connector role that will be tasked with supporting building connections for people with the community.

Gratitude

We are fortunate to have thoughtful, dedicated, and passionate Board members. Our Board members take their role very seriously and actively pursue educational opportunities and consult with our owners to help them create the vision for SHS and its sister organizations. Rich Gorman, Board Chair, leads the Board by example and enables fair and lively discussion during Board meetings. Board members don’t always agree in discussions, but they always treat each other with respect!

I’d like to thank Baksho Ghangass for her years of dedication and service to the Boards of Semiahmoo House Society, Peninsula Estates Housing Society, and The Semiahmoo Foundation. Baksho was first appointed to the Board for the 2008/2009 year and has completed three 3-year elected terms as a Board member.

I’d also like to thank Jan Holt, who is retiring to the Sunshine Coast after 6 years as a Board member. Jan has a strong understanding of the fiduciary duty of Board members and asked great questions when we discussed complex issues.

SHS is fortunate to have the support of a great group of senior staff who lead by example and take on projects for the betterment of SHS and the people we support. Lise Boughen, Director of Inclusive Living, ensures the people we support in staffed residential homes, shared living arrangements, and independent supported living arrangements have the opportunity to live good lives of their choosing. Liz Deschenes, Director of Community Services, is leading the redesign of our community inclusion services so there is more choice and people are supported

to be connected to the community. Stephanie Green, Director of Human Resources, is implementing Accountability Based Management system that will clarify roles and accountabilities of all staff members. Ellen Powell, Director of Finance, is developing technology systems that will strengthen SHS’s relationships with stakeholders, while at the same time overseeing our financial assets and systems. Louise Tremblay, Director of Development, oversaw our refreshed Taste of BC Gala that saw over $100,000 raised to support affordable housing for people who have disabilities. I’d like to welcome Seema Tripathi, Associate Director of Community Services, to our team. Seema has a track record in developing employment services that successfully match employers and employees. I’d also like to welcome aboard, Diane Nimmo as the Executive Administration Manager. She will be supporting the Board and myself and oversee Front Desk Associates.

SHS’s managers, supervisors, and front-line staff members do exceptional work in a compassionate and creative manner. They consistently go above and beyond in the work that they do.

The support we receive from volunteers, donors, and our community allows us to create services that meet the needs of the people we support at a time when funding does not fully cover the type of services that we want to offer. SHS is made stronger because of our stakeholder community, our members, and the families of people we support. Thank you all for your support.

Respectfully submitted,

Doug Tennant, Chief Executive Officer, UNITI

Chair’s Report 2018 AGM

rich_

As I prepare for the year-end report, I cannot help but think that the years are going by far too quickly.  I often wonder how we are going to accomplish our Ends (mission) and the projects that are being developed at the present time.

Over the course of the last handful of years, I believe it is fair to state that the groundwork that was started some 14 years ago by the Board and our Executive Director at the time, Mr. Paul Wheeler, is now becoming a reality.   As we, your Board members, our staff, the people we support and of course the residents in our Chorus Apartment, as well as yourselves, our owners, as we reflect on this achievement, it is very evident that the relationships that have been developed are now paying dividends in our progress.

The tag phrase of UNITI, “Together we’re Stronger”, has arisen during the past year and we have witnessed the reaction of the new UNITI brand. The UNITI brand provides umbrella coverage for the three banners, those being The Semiahmoo Foundation, Peninsula Estates Housing Society and Semiahmoo House Society. As this partnership evolves and grows under the UNITI banner, our goal is to become the gold medal standard in the world of inclusivity.

Your Board and its members have a responsibility to ensure the strong stewardship of the society, and this is accomplished through vigilant policy reviews as they pertain to our Chief Executive Officer as well as ensuring that the Executive Limitations and Policy Ends are the focus of both the Board and our CEO. Your Board is responsible and accepts this responsibility on behalf of UNITI to ensure the successful future on our owners’ behalf.

A large part of the Board’s responsibility is to ensure the Board members are creating awareness with as many owners and neighbours as possible. The broader the UNITI banner and its intended inclusiveness, the stronger we all become. Over the past year, we have offered many opportunities to accomplish this goal.

This coming year promises to, once again, be a very active year with a number of projects on the calendar or in the planning stages. These projects will all fall under the UNITI banner and will include all three of the partnerships that UNITI represents.

We are so blessed to have such a dedicated group of senior staff members, who just never stop making sacrifices for the organization. This is carried out through their leadership which is always evident through our staff members who also dedicate so much time to the people we support. The volunteers, who we could not be successful without, are always ready to help members, volunteers from Chorus and the community, and we are so thankful for their support. Thank you, to each and every one of you.

This year, we are once again offering: “Thank you and good bye. We’ll Certainly Miss You”!

Jan Holt will be leaving the Board after serving six years as a Board member, during which time she has brought a special skill of asking the right questions as well as expressing her desire to learn more and ensuring that she completely has an understanding of why we would be making these decisions. Jan is retiring from Southridge School and moving to a slower paced life on the Sunshine Coast with her husband Peter.

Baksho Ghangass’s terms of serving on the Board have come to an end, after serving a one- year term as an appointed Board member followed by nine years as an elected Board member. Over the term, Baksho has become a strong member of the Board and has put her heart and soul into SHS, working to make it a better and safer place to be. She has been a strong advocate in the community and she is a tireless worker. Her knitting of scarves, mitts and booties will be missed as they were great fundraiser items. With Baksho’s husband now retired, the two of them will continue to keep very active, and don’t be surprised to see her around The Treehouse.

I would also like to once again offer our congratulations to our self-advocate Board member, Alex Magnussen. This year, Alex was a recipient of one of the four WOW (Widening our World) Awards. This award recognizes inclusion and it is based on courage, leadership, innovation and dedication. Alex has become a key member of the UNITI group.

My personal expression of appreciation goes out to Doug Tennant our CEO and to the Board members who give so much of themselves to help accomplish our Ends. Doug’s leadership guided the Board members and our entire staff including all our volunteers, who are so dedicated to the success and the future of UNITI.

Once again, I offer my sincerest thank you to all for the work that you have done as well for the work you are about to do!

I would like to leave you with this thought about inclusivity from Edwin Markham: “We have committed the Golden Rule to memory; let us now commit it to Life”.

Respectfully submitted,

Rich Gorman, Chair, Semiahmoo House Society

More Words about Pieced Together–Canada’s Mosaic

Connie with Jasper

Connie, center, with Jasper to the left and Mayor Baldwin to the right.

I have had the privilege to work on eight public and community public art projects over about the last 20 years.  None of them has demonstrated the powerful force of community art the way Pieced Together—Canada’s Mosaic has. This mosaic is the culmination of the creativity, capacity and perseverance that makes our community thrive.

There are of course many people to thank and I will come to some familiar names later.  But first I want to thank the project participants who were such a pleasure to work with. They contributed a huge amount of personal time and energy to the project. This was my first experience working with people with disabilities on a public art project.  I was inspired by their focus, attention to detail, and commitment to the project.  They demonstrated that in the making of community public art, people from all walks of life come together—sharing experiences and bridging gaps.

After Semiahmoo House Society received the Canada 150 grant from the Federal Government last spring, we were looking around for an installation site. I mentioned this at an art show opening at which Councilor Lynne Sinclair was in attendance and she expressed an interest for the City of White Rock.  Her enthusiasm brought the project to Eric Stepura and Claire Halpern of the Public Art Advisory and early last fall it was approved and passed by City Council.  Thanks to Mayor Baldwin and all you folks from City Hall who helped make this a reality.  And thanks to White Rock Library Manager David Thiessen for approving the site and to Jasper Macabulos, for creating the design.

Once we were settled on the design, a full size 8‘ x 5’ copy was printed and then divided to create manageable sections.  Doug Anderson, a volunteer, made a plywood tray for each of the 8 sections.  This allowed the work to be stored efficiently and moved to other places such as Seniors Come Share and the Acquired Brain Injury Services [of Semiahmoo House Society].

As Project Coordinator I enjoyed watching a very unique process unfold in workshops led by Tanya at Semiahmoo House.

In each plywood tray, a part of the design was laid down, then covered with wax paper to act as glue resist, and finally a layer of fiberglass mesh was laid on top. Participants then glued each piece of glass or ceramic tile to the mesh, following the design below it. As anyone who has worked in mosaics will know, this is a very labour intensive process.  Participants developed proficiency in all aspects of mosaic construction, including scoring, nipping and cutting glass and ceramic tile.  They worked collaboratively on different sections of the pieces, blending the tesserae to create the colourful imagery.

This project gave the participants an opportunity to learn skills while engaging in meaningful arts practice for their community. Whenever I stopped in to see the progress from time to time, I was always impressed with the quality and quantity of the work accomplished. Tanya did a great job of running the workshops at Semiahmoo House and everyone who worked on it is to be sincerely congratulated.

The work was completed by about the end of January, but it was necessary to wait for warm dry weather for the installation. Finally, in early May, we were fortunate to have a long enough stretch of good weather and with the assistance of my brother Reg Glover, a stroke survivor himself, we began the installation which took about six days.

To begin, the mesh backing of each section was cut into manageable sizes, roughly 2’ x 2’, and after troweling the mortar onto the wall, each section was lifted and pressed into the mortar.  The mural was then grouted and the grout was sealed after curing.

I’d like to thank Semiahmoo House Society Director Doug Tennant, Brianna, Kelly and Tanya, and all the Semiahmoo House members and staff who were involved in the construction of the mosaic There were also people involved from Seniors’ Come Share, [Semiahmoo House Society’s] Acquired Brain Injury Services and Recreation and Leisure Services, and students from White Rock Elementary.

In closing, I’d like to say that many cities in Canada and the United States have developed active public and community public art programs in recent years. The projects, like this mosaic, enliven city spaces and give a voice to communities.  Community public art is at its best when it enhances public spaces while promoting a feeling of belonging and ownership. I am very proud and honoured to have been a part of this important work.

Thank you for coming out today to celebrate the completion of this project.

Connie Glover, Local Artist

Bits and Pieces

On June 13, 2018, the community gathered at the White Rock Library to unveil Pieced Together—Canada’s Mosaic, a project that was conceptualized by the staff and participants of Semiahmoo House Society (SHS) to commemerate the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation. The intricate project, which took a year to complete, brought together members of the community, with diverse abilities and ages, as they accomplished this amazing piece of art.

During the unveiling ceremony, the two artists involved with the project were invited to say a few words. These are the words of Jasper Macabulos, the artist who designed the mosaic. Jasper is also employed with SHS as a Community Support Worker.

(The project was funded by Community Foundations of Canada and the Government of Canada.)

Mosaic Unveiling

Jasper at most left.

Bits and Pieces

Good morning to everyone.

I was tasked to talk a bit about this art piece. What can I say about it. My brain went blank and all it can come up with was the phrase bits and pieces.

Funny… as I spent the last few days thinking about how I can grandly describe this project, I could have gone with intricate, polychromatic, exquisite, and the like. However, I still ended up with bits and pieces.

I guess that is how I can best put into words what this mosaic is and what it has gone through: bits and pieces.

Bits and pieces. The concept behind it was born in a white Chevy work truck with a crew munching on some Timbits. I was preparing for my citizenship exam last August and I just heard that Brianna voluntold me to design something to commemorate Canada’s 150th. Thank you, Brianna. I am really honoured and happy that you connected me with this project.

I threw the question to the crew: What do you like about Canada? What is cool about it?” All sorts of things came up, from hockey to beavers, maple leaf to the Canucks, Tim Horton’s to Terry Fox, Don Cherry to tuques, poutine to even Deadpool. It was such an enriching moment for me, because there I was trying my very best to prepare for a test from a thick book and yet nothing was sticking in my head. But because of a challenging task laid out to me, and how passionate the crew responded, my curiosity and fervour to learn more about Canada well, double-doubled. (See what I did there? Hehe!)

I took bits and pieces from this experience to start up the makings of what is now the product of hours of hard work of such a diversified group. The concept revolved around inclusion, passion, connection, and just getting together, being a community, hence having the bonfire as the focal point and the phrase “From sea to sea” reflected by the waves. I learned that “from sea to sea” or “Mari usque ad mare” is Canada’s official motto, carried on its coat of arms.

For me, the most beautiful thing beyond the constellation of symbols found in the mosaic is the idea that every bit of tile in place is intricately pieced together by a person who spent time to follow a vision and gave his full effort to push it through to its ultimate completion.

This I believe is the essence of the project. An artwork that a multitude of people can proudly say, “I am a part of that.” This mosaic has brought together people from all walks of life from the young to the young once, from staff to participant, from volunteers to the I have nothing to do-ers, from followers to leaders. Everyone has agreed to share their bit and do their piece. So, this mosaic is us. All of us.

I hope that whenever people look at the mosaic, they will be reminded of how fortunate we are to live in such a place that encourages citizens to try their hardest to see connections in a sea of differences. A country that fosters unity while honouring diversity. A home where all of us are at home.

To my family, my lovely wife and best friend Kristina, my two wonderful kids Elisha and Ezekiel, to my two Moms visiting here from the Philippines, my mother-in-law Diwie and my mother Josie—ask me about my Mother’s Day—and to the whole Society whom I consider my home and family, Semiahmoo House Society, thank you for making me a puzzle piece of the community we are all trying to build.

By Jasper Macabulos, Designer of Pieced Together–Canada’s Mosaic

 

My Independent Life Story

Madison V

The author, Madison Van Oene, is one of the Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo (SAS)

I’ve been living on my own for the past 7 years.  Independence is the key. Being on my own Without my parents. It’s a learning curve. It’s everything from the movies to the mall to the beach to the park to appointments to SAS.

Sometimes it is challenging to fit everything into my schedule. One of my caregivers takes me everywhere.

“The best thing about living on my own is not to have to rely on others to do things for me. I’m not waiting for others I’m doing on my own.”

I make decisions by positive thinking. I don’t see things in a negative light. Being in a wheelchair can seem negative to others but I think in a positive way. My wheelchair, which is almost like a car, helps me get around. If I didn’t have a wheelchair I wouldn’t be able to get around easily and I would miss out on the positive adventures of life.

When I make decisions I can ask people’s opinions, like my parents, but the decision must be mine.  Like when I wanted to move out. It was an enormous life decision because I was afraid to tell my mom. I thought she would be terrified for me. She wanted me to live with her forever. So, I told my dad first. He encouraged me to expand my horizons and started to look for houses. When I told my mom I wanted to move out she stood up and walked out of the room This lead to a court battle over sole custody. We were able to work it out with a lot of discussion.  I am grateful for my dad and mom for  supporting me financially and emotionally and giving me quality of life.

Being a part of SAS has lead me to have a more positive outlook on my life and how to help others. I was involved in food 4 thought. I came early to help with the preparations. We sat around exquisite tables with people from the lower mainland.

We talked about accessibility, housing and the economy and how to make an inclusive community. The questions were challenging. You had to think about how to make a positive answer and exactly what the question meant. I felt respected and listened to. My thoughts were being heard. SAS has introduced me to new concepts and brought me up to new challenges. I feel like I can reach new heights and made me more compassionate to help the community.

One of my passions is the beach wheelchairs. It helps people with mobility issues like me to go into the water and on the beach. We started raising money for the beach wheelchairs. Feral Board Sports has space where we keep the chairs and people can use them for free. It makes me feel empowered to help our community.

I hope you feel inspired by hearing my story.

By Madison Van Oene, Self-Advocate of Semiahmoo

Get to Know Who you Grow

Discover 5

In this ever changing world that we live in, we need to be able to adapt and change. We feel this includes how we support and mentor the individuals who come to Semiahmoo House Society (SHS). When this idea of an Intake Hub was first brought to us, we were not only intrigued, but excited to have an opportunity to help shift the way we think and empower the individuals we support to have full and fulfilled lives!

Staying true to person-centered practices we are focused on what an individual wants and what an individual needs, and guiding them to a balance of both. Our goal of having Intake Hub is to get to know individuals for who they are; their dreams, their hopes, their goals and what they really want out of life. We are working to observe what these individuals not only want, but what staff feels they need to help become the best version of them-selves. We feel one of the best ways of doing this is to expose individuals to as many possibilities and points of view as possible. We have been working toward helping individuals realise that they are not limited in what they can achieve in life.

What we’ve been focusing on in Intake Hub is giving individuals a taste of everything by discussing and learning together over a variety of different topics to aid and guide them in the direction they want to go in their lives.

Since we are catering to such a diverse group of individuals with different skill sets we have noticed at times it is difficult to explain concepts and ideas to the whole group in a way that each individual can understand. We are constantly having to adapt our learning material and ways of expressing concepts and ideas. We find as a team that some of our best observations are found toward the end of our four weeks because so much of the beginning is focused on getting to know each other. Some individual’s skills are shadowed by this process and come to light later. We are focusing on improving our ways of sharing ideas and having them become more interactive and fun versus more traditional ways of learning.

The themes that we have noticed and have been working on are communication, decision-making, and personal limits. Through our observations we have realised that communication is a skill that all the individuals we support could work on. We have noticed that most individuals have a hard time and hesitate to communicate how they really feel. We see that they come off as too concerned of how their feelings and thoughts may be construed by others. Because so many of our individuals have been told what they can or cannot do, they struggle with making decisions independently and we feel this affects their self-esteem in some ways making them feel limited.

One of the highlights of being a part of Discover Yourself is staff being able to observe individuals skills overall and seeing what they already know but may not have had the opportunity to show. We have found that we have needed to up our game with learning material because so many individuals have blown us away with what they already know and seeing their hidden talents emerge.  Another highlight of Discover Yourself is seeing the personal transformation of self-esteem and watching each person discover on a deeper level who they really are. Since we are in smaller groups we are able to give each individual more one-to-one attention and focus. We have really realised how much this means to the individuals we are supporting. So many of them have opened up to us and shared personal hopes, struggles, and dreams. We have seen “aha” moments and watched concepts click and be understood.

We have found that our best observations come from candid moments where individuals don’t necessarily know they are in a structured environment being observed. When individuals don’t feel the pressure of performing or showing their skills, they seem to be more relaxed and are able to be themselves. It is structure within an unstructured environment. Group participants are moved into the appropriate program shortly after finishing Discover Yourself according to the observations that have been gathered and skill sets they need to improve. This is discussed and collaborated with individuals, staff, and management to find the right placement for them.

Being part of Intake Hub has been so gratifying for the both of us. At this point in Intake Hub the biggest drive we have is to be better for the individuals we support. We will continue to adapt and change with each group that comes through intake and keep our focus on helping them have the full lives they deserve.

Samantha Kuntz and Kelly Macdonald, Semiahmoo House Society

Building Blocks and Cornerstones

F4T18_10

On April 16, 2018, UNITI, the partnership of Semiahmoo House Society (SHS), Peninsula Estates Housing Society (PEHS), and The Semiahmoo Foundation (TSF), hosted its fifth annual Food for Thought Dinner in the Treehouse Great Room. UNITI considers its “owners” to be members of the community, and annually consults with a sector of the community at this dinner. In 2018, the guests were people associated with housing and they included developers, city staff, housing experts, and other housing stakeholders. The guests were asked to answer the following three questions:

  1. What are the signs of a healthy and inclusive community?
  2. What are the housing challenges that people with a disability face and what needs to be done to overcome them?
  3. What is the role of UNITI in building a healthy and inclusive community

The conversations at the tables were lively as guests shared their ideas with Board members, senior staff, and self-advocates. These ideas were recorded by note-takers and the information was then organized into themes for each question (Appendix A). This executive summary will be used by the Board in examining our Ends (mission) and by Senior Staff when reviewing current operational practices.

 What are the signs of a healthy and inclusive community?

One of the key discussion points for this question was around “reciprocity,” the idea that healthy and inclusive communities have opportunities for all people to contribute, both personally and as a part of larger organizations. This is a shift away from the paradigm of charity, of “haves and have nots” who each have a role as giver or taker. The idea of reciprocity fits well with some of the recent UNITI endeavours: Chorus, an apartment for people who have disabilities AND the general population of Surrey, and WISE Employment Solutions, which matches employers and employees, are both examples of relationships that leverage the talents of people with disabilities and UNITI staff for the benefit of the greater community.

While it was pointed out that there are barriers to healthy and inclusive communities such as profit margins for developers and NIMBYism of some neighbourhoods, it was also clearly noted that there is a shift in attitudes, “a new normal,” that is enabling more inclusion for people who have disabilities. Physical accessibility, “the right and ability to access everything from transit to housing,” was talked about as part of the solution to isolation.  Financial cost of participating in the community (housing, transportation, recreation) was noted as a barrier to inclusion, with Surrey’s new Affordable Housing Strategy being seen as part of the solution.

Having a positive quality of life as a result of surroundings (nature, landscaping, housing), safety (sense of community, knowing one’s neighbours), emotional wellbeing (pets, active lives), and having options (where and with whom one lives) was also discussed.

What are the housing challenges that people with a disability face and what needs to be done to overcome them?

Financial barriers were noted as a major barrier to finding the right housing for people who have disabilities. These include both the lack of income/resources for people and the lack of affordable housing options in Greater Vancouver. Accessibility was also noted as an issue—many homes are not accessible for someone who has mobility issues, and those that are accessible are often not affordable.

The attendees also saw a need for more innovative housing models that are also affordable and a role for all levels of government in supporting this. It was noted that there needs to be policy change at all levels to support this (an example of this that pertains to UNITI is the CRA rule that charitable organizations cannot own or operate affordable housing and non-profit organizations cannot charge market rent).

Social attitudes about disability were seen as a barrier to housing—people need “to be more educated about people with disabilities.” It was also noted that people long for community so considering housing in isolation from connection to community does not make sense. The need for partnership to build inclusion was noted, as was the needs of an aging population that shares many of the same challenges as people who have disabilities.

What is the role of UNITI in building a healthy and inclusive community?

There were many great thoughts about how UNITI could play a role in building a healthy and inclusive community. These included taking a lead in engaging people, partners, and the general community in breaking down barriers. This could come in the form of advocacy with politicians (it was noted that this is a municipal election year…), creating awareness through multiple platforms, and partnering with the Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo (SAS). It was also noted that UNITI should continue to learn from other organizations and individuals.

Attendees discussed the need for UNITI to continue to create housing similar to Chorus and to be innovative in its approach. This could include everything from supporting tenants who need financial assistance to partnering with other housing organizations.

The leadership of UNITI was a theme that ran throughout the evening. People want UNITI to share its vision of inclusion with the community and to inspire others to engage in building a healthy and inclusive community.

Final Notes

On behalf of UNITI’s Board of Directors, Senior Staff, and Self-Advocates, we’d like to express our gratitude for our guests and the wealth of knowledge and ideas they shared with us during our fifth Annual Food for Thought Dinner. Our commitment is to use the information our guests shared to develop policies and practices that will help build a healthy and inclusive community that values all people.

Sincerely,

Doug Tennant, CEO UNITI

Rich Gorman, Chair Semiahmoo Foundation

Ian Jarvis, Chair Peninsula Estates Housing Society

Colleen Mc-Goff-Dean, Chair The Semiahmoo Foundation

The Good and the Bad of Stress

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Stress is a natural and essential part of life.  Our stress response is designed to protect and preserve our lives.  We need a certain amount of stress in our lives but not too much for too long.  Our bodies are constantly responding to positive and negative stress.  Positive stress motivates and drives us.  Often, we get excited about working on a new project at work, moving to a new city, changing our careers and so on.

Negative stress affects our physical and mental health and can rob us from experiencing true happiness.  Every individual has potential and each of us has passions which we have never explored! The main reason that we don’t reach out for our potential in our lives is because of our fears. If you want to experience living an intentional life of true happiness, you can’t run from stress or avoid it.  Stress is part of our daily life as breathing, eating and drinking water.

Stress is constant in our lives. There is a reason for stress.  Stress discovers our dark places and brings them out for attention. Each stress that we perceive as an obstacle is actually an opportunity. You know what consequences there are if you neglect a wound or a sore. It gets worse and can eventually cost you your life! Stress will get worse if you ignore it and don’t respect the gift it is offering you.  Denying stress, like denying a wound, can make you worse on spiritual, psychological and physical levels. The situational or acute stress can shift into chronic, continual unabated stress.

Stress is your guide and can be quite a gift.  Try to observe what stresses you. Then try to embrace your stress and be compassionate with yourself.  Sometimes clients tend to be so hard on themselves. They keep blaming themselves for everything that’s not being as should be.  These individuals often feel victimized and overwhelmed by the stress in their lives. The more we live in denial or running away from our stress, the more insidious ways our stress will discover to get our attention. You can run away from stress for a while, but it will eventually find a way to get your attention.  It will surface in your psychological or spiritual well-being at first and later   affect your physical body.  Stress invites you to make new choices in your life and these choices require action. As you learn to deal with the stresses in your life, your incredible potential will unfold, leading you deeper on the path to true happiness

Some immediate effects of stress on your mind and body:

  • Memory: becomes vague and inexact
  • Learning: difficulty learning and problem solving
  • Perception: is limited and narrow
  • Attitude: defensive and aggressive
  • Mood: negative, wants to flee

Living from the inside out is the only way to overcome stress and truly experience an authentic sense of happiness in your lives!

By: Shabnam Khan, Guidance Counsellor

s.khan@shsbc.ca

UNITI – We’re Stronger Together

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Many people know that Semiahmoo House Society (SHS) does good work in the community supporting people who have disabilities to live good lives of their choosing. Not as many people know that SHS has to sister organizations: Peninsula Estates Housing Society (PEHS) and The Semiahmoo Foundation (TSF).  Each of the three organizations has their own constitution and bylaws, and each strives to fulfill its own mission. There are areas where the three organizations’ missions overlap, and, in these cases, it makes sense that the organizations would work in partnership to support the achievement of this portion of their mission. When the three organizations work together, they are known as UNITI. The most obvious focus of UNITI is housing, as the missions or constitutions of SHS, PEHS, and TSF include the following statements:

Semiahmoo House Society (Mission): “People choose where and with whom they live”

 Peninsula Estates Housing Society (Mission): “People live in inclusive and affordable housing that reflects the diversity of their community”

 The Semiahmoo Foundation (Constitution): “To establish a building fund for the purposes of establishing and/or developing building options for adults who have disabilities, primarily those adults who have disabilities having a low or modest income, including constructing, providing, maintaining, leasing, owning and managing low-rental housing projects and/or assisting or collaborating with other organizations for such purposes.”

UNITI partner organizations worked together to imagine, develop, and complete Chorus, the first purpose-built rental apartment in Surrey in over 30 years, which has been the home for over 100 Surrey citizens for the past year and a half, including 21 tenants who have developmental disabilities. For this project, TSF invested in the pre-development of the project and holds a mortgage on apartments; SHS provides supports for 17 of the tenants who have disabilities; and PEHS owns and operates the building.

The missions and constitutions of the UNITI partners ensure that any housing we develop will be inclusive and will reflect the diversity of our community. It is also clear that housing that includes people with disabilities works. We recently completed a very thorough review of what was working and not working with Chorus and the tenants we support there and found that the tenants were thriving in many facets of their lives, including employment, friendships, and independence. Many of the tenants have presented about their experiences living in Chorus as major conferences, including the recently completed Housing Central Conference in Richmond that featured over 1400 delegates from around the world.

One does not have to read many housing reports in local media to understand that Surrey and British Columbia need more housing models like Chorus. The UNITI partner organizations are committed to building more inclusive and affordable housing that reflects the community. We will be looking for support from all levels of government and from our neighbours and supporters to get this done. We are looking forward to the specifics of Surrey’s Affordable Housing Strategy, set to be released in January. We are hopeful that the strategy will have a clear commitment of levels of municipal support for the continuum of housing, and that housing that is run by a not-for-profit organization and is inclusive and affordable will be incentivized differently than privately built market developments.

I was recently invited by Joan, one of the tenants supported by SHS at Chorus, to visit her apartment to check out her Christmas decorations. Her apartment was warm and inviting and wonderfully decorated with Christmas ornaments and a little lighted village with cotton batting snow on a side table. Joan, like most of us, delighted in showing off what she had done to make her apartment her home. She is able to choose who to invite over and to host people she likes when she wants to. In her relationships, she has a stronger position because she is able to share her home with others. Joan and the other tenants of Chorus personify the motto of UNITI: We’re Stronger Together.

By Doug Tennant, CEO of UNITI

 

Have you Been a Good . . . Role Model?

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As another year is coming to a close, I would like to ask you, “Have you been a good role model for your vision? Steven Covey’s website contains an inspiring quote, ”Sometimes people find themselves achieving victories that are empty—successes that have come at the expense of things that were far more valuable to them.” As an organization or as a person, do you find yourself contemplating your successes and whether or not you achieved them in alignment with your values? If that’s the case, it may be a good idea to practice the second habit that Dr. Covey proposed in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “begin with the end in mind.”

To me, beginning with the end in mind, means that once the vision is established—the ideal situation that we all work hard at achieving in our communities—we need to determine what vehicle we’ll use to get there. I’m not talking about governance, strategic planning, or operational implementation. I’m talking about defining our values. Only after that, policy making, planning, and execution can follow.

The reason why examining our values is so critical to our work as community leaders is because values are the principles that guide our every thought, our every decision, and our every action, and they determine the impact our work has on the people we serve and the community at large. When our activities are in sync with our values, we demonstrate integrity, and people take notice. This creates an exemplary effect, resulting in learning circles that emerge from everywhere and interweave to become the fabric of an inclusive community.

On the other hand, people also take notice when behaviours are incongruent with published values, even when these occurrences are seldom.  Naturally, people will remember the slipups more than the abundant efforts of the leader to make a difference. Once that happens, we all know how very difficult it is to overcome the negative perceptions.

The responsibility, to start with the end in mind, rests at the governance and leadership level of the organization. Leaders are accountable to establish organizational culture, and, in order to achieve this, they need to be guided by the right values. Therefore, I would encourage you to take a moment to reflect on your personal and organizational values at your next board meeting and discuss how these should be communicated to the people that work within, or receive services from, your organization. This is a worthwhile exercise to ensure that your values percolate throughout your work in the community and that your vision becomes a reality.

Wishing you a wonderful Holiday Season and a prosperous New Year,

Rich Gorman, Board Chair of UNITI

UNITI is the new umbrella name that integrates three affiliated non-profit organizations that have existed for decades:

Semiahmoo House Society, a non-profit organization located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to provide quality services and supports to people with disabilities and their families in the community. 

The Semiahmoo Foundation exists to fund, support and enhance the programs and services delivered by Semiahmoo House Society.

Peninsula Estates Housing Society provides affordable and inclusive rental housing that reflects the diversity of our community.