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EnVision: Helping Those with Intellectual Disabilities Thrive

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Jeannette DeLong, EnVision’s executive director.

Although many people don’t know about enVision Community Living, chances are most do know somebody whose life has been impacted by their work. EnVision, a non-profit headquartered in Steinbach but operating throughout the southeast, has a mandate to provide support to those with intellectual disabilities.

The organization was founded in 1956 by a group of parents. At that time, they were known as the Association for Community Living, Steinbach Branch. Parenting a child with special needs can be overwhelming, and the group formed to lend each other support through the challenges and joys of parenting their special kids.

The ACL dreamt of seeing their children live and thrive in the community, and so the first thing they did was set up a school to provide their kids basic education. At the time, there was no government mandate to provide any schooling to children with intellectual differences.

In 1967, the Manitoba government changed their policy to require that all children receive an education regardless of special needs. The ACL then widened their mandate to provide vocational support to young adults who were graduating from high school.

In 1973, the group inaugurated Kindale Manor in Steinbach to provide a home special needs adults. After that, they began offering other services, leading to 2008 when they changed their name to enVision Community Living.

Today, residential services are a cornerstone of the organization, and a core value. Through enVision homes, adults with intellectual disabilities can either live alone or with up to three roommates based on their needs. Services in these community homes can range from independent living all the way to 24/7 staff support. So far, these homes are operating in Niverville, Steinbach, St. Pierre-Jolys, LaBroquerie, and Ste. Anne.

More than Basic Care

Jeannette DeLong is the enVision’s executive director, and she explains that they provide more than just basic care.

“Although a lot of our work involves caregiving and supporting people with many areas of their daily living, a very important focus of our work is about helping people to get connected to their communities, finding places of belonging and interest, and developing and maintaining relationships,” says DeLong. “The people we support have historically been excluded from community life and community members don’t always know how to include people. Our role is to help facilitate this inclusion and belonging.”

With supported independent living, the organization offers support of two to 35 hours a week to enable adults with intellectual disabilities to live in their own home. They receive help with home maintenance, laundry, cleaning, and other household duties. But enVision also helps their clients with budgeting and understanding and meeting their own nutritional needs.

Another option is shared living, in which clients are placed in a home where they live as a member of a family. The person is matched with an individual, couple, or family who shares common interests with them.

For families with a special needs member, enVision offers respite services, to give caretakers a temporary break from their responsibilities. Respite can be a regular occurrence or just happen occasionally. It can be facilitated anywhere, including at enVision’s dedicated respite apartment.

They also provide day services, through two operations in Steinbach, Edith’s Place and the Martha P. Rempel Centre.

Finally, there’s a retirement program through enVision that offers daytime opportunities for senior citizens to participate in a variety of leisure, recreational, volunteer, learning, and social activities in the community.

EnVision’s wide scope of support means they are also a major employer of residents throughout southeast Manitoba. Niverville itself has four residential locations housing eight individuals. Roughly 40 employees work in these homes.

Community Value

Lindsay Unrau, who lives in Niverville and serves as the organization’s fundraising and promotions coordinator, has made it her mission to help the people of her community understand how valuable the organization is to the area.

Unrau explains that on top of providing services for intellectually challenged people, and employment, enVision is also a boon in other ways.

“Our staff facilitate community participation and contribution through supporting people to maintain employment, access to local recreational facilities, active participation in local churches, supporting local restaurants, and generally participating in all that Niverville has to offer,” says Unrau. “EnVision also supports the local economy by purchasing the majority of its needed goods and services locally.”

The majority of enVision’s day-to-day operating dollars come from grants through the provincial government’s Department of Families. These grants don’t provide for everything, though, and that’s where the enVision Foundation comes in.

“The Foundation does fundraising for the benefit of enVision Community Living,” says Unrau, “thus providing grants for capital and demonstration projects that add significantly to enVision’s range or quality of services.”

Fran Giesbrecht is the mother of a long-term client of enVision, and she says that her son Mark has been part of the enVision family for 16 years.

Mark started attending the day program at Edith’s Place when he was 21, and a few years after that he was accepted into the residential program. Mark now lives in a community living home in Niverville with two other men. The home is staffed 24/7 by enVision community support workers.

“Mark has become much more interactive,” Giesbrecht says of how enVision has helped her son. “His communication skills have improved and he has developed his own sense of independence.”

Giesbrecht adds that in many ways the transition was more difficult for her than it was for Mark.

“I would be lying if I said it was easy to let go and allow perfect strangers to look after my son’s daily physical needs,” she says. “Today I can say that it was the best decision we could have made for Mark and for us as a family. He is happy and cared for, loving his life. We can enjoy spending time with him, without needing to follow his daily routines… EnVision has been so supportive walking us through this transition.”

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