Weyburn council rejects home for people with disabilities, citing 'stigma' and property values
by Alicia Bridges, CBC News
March 13, 2019

'It kind of dashes the dreams and hopes of the people that live there currently,' says Councillor Brad Wheeler

Care home workers, residents and their loved ones are planning to protest in a new Weyburn, Sask. subdivision where a proposal for a new group care home for people with disabilities was rejected on Monday. (CBC)

City councillors in Weyburn, Sask., have voted to reject the construction of a group home for people with disabilities in a new subdivision, citing safety concerns and a potential impact on property prices.
The Saskatchewan Housing Corporation had applied to build a group care home for a maximum four occupants in The Creeks neighbourhood, a newer subdivision in the city of Weyburn.

Councillor Brad Wheeler, who said he lives in the neighbourhood, was among those who voted against the proposal.

'It will probably impede the development'
"It kind of dashes the dreams and hopes of the people that live there currently. It will probably impede the development of that immediate area going forward," said Wheeler in Weyburn's council meeting on March 11.

"I know it's not politically correct to say there's a stigma attached to them but there is. You have to be honest with yourself.

"I feel bad that that's the case but these people have invested a lot of money into their dream homes, their retirement homes."

Under the proposal, the housing corporation planned to build the home for people with mental and physical disabilities.

They shouldn't be denied an opportunity to live in a certain area of town just because they are disabled. ~ Weyburn group home manager Niki Woycik

It would then be operated under 24-hour supervision by Weyburn Group Home Society, which runs seven other group homes in Weyburn.

City planner Amanda Kauffman recommended that councillors approve the development, but the motion was voted down.

Wheeler said people who built in The Creeks subdivision might not have if they knew there was a proposal to build a group care home.

"All the people that built there, built there under the understanding that it wasn't an exclusive neighbourhood but it was the closest thing to ... [in] Weyburn."

"There were architectural controls and most of them built their lifetime homes or moved into their retirement homes there," he said in the meeting.

Residents of subdivision oppose home in group letter
"I think the average price of the houses in that area would probably be north of $700,000, which isn't really relevant, but when they made their plans there was no discussion of group homes in the area," Wheeler said.

A letter signed by "Residents of The Creeks subdivision" was sent to the mayor and councillors in response to a callout for feedback - part of the process for approving discretionary use developments.

"It is important to note that there are many children and young families in the neighbourhood who wish to maintain the character of the neighbourhood and who have safety concerns," said the letter.

"The Notice is not specific regarding factors considered for approval by the Ministry of Social Services or what is meant by 24-hour supervision."

They also raised concerns about there being more traffic in the area.

Councillors Wheeler, Winston Bailey and Jeff Chessall, along with Mayor Marcel Roy, each voted against the proposal at a Monday council meeting. Councillor Mel Van Betuw recused himself from the vote, citing a conflict of interest as he rents out property to Sask. Housing for a group home elsewhere in the city.

He wouldn't comment to CBC News on the vote outcome.

CBC has contacted the other councillors and mayor for comment.

Councillor Dick Michel put forward a motion to delay the decision and ask for more information from the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation but it was defeated.

Protest planned Wednesday
Niki Woycik, who manages several of the society's existing group homes in Weyburn, said care home workers, residents and their family members are planning to walk through The Creeks subdivision with placards on Wednesday.

She said the Weyburn Group Home Society needs another home because it currently supports 52 people and it has reached its capacity.

"I think people need to get up to date on people with disabilities," said Woycik. "There's nothing to be concerned about, they're just like every one of us."


"What would they do if they had a family member with a disability? How would they feel if they found out a family member couldn't move into a community because people wouldn't want them there?"

Woycik said the group homes allow people to live independently with support from the society, which also helps them to get jobs.

She said the society has never had any neighbour complaints about its existing group homes.

Rejection will lengthen wait list for group homes
Weyburn people with disabilities will have to go on a wait list for a group home in another community until a new facility can be built, said Woycik.

"They should be treated equally and they shouldn't be denied an opportunity to live in a certain area of town just because they are disabled," she said.

"We have homes all over our community and the neighbourhoods and neighbours all enjoy having the group homes in their communities.

"It's pretty sad to see that a brand new area of town does not want to have a group home there."

Relatives concerned about wait lists
Michelle Roemer has a younger brother who could potentially need to enter a group home when he reaches the age requirement of 18.

She does not accept the councillors' and residents' arguments for rejecting the group home proposal.

"All these arguments and reasons they are giving for not wanting this in their community to me just reflects the bigger issue of discrimination," she said.

"Participants and individuals living in group homes are not criminals," said Roemer.

"It's not going to in any way affect the safety of their community. We have many group homes situated throughout the city and that has never been an issue in the past."

Without more capacity in the group home system, she is concerned people like her younger brother could have to move to another community to receive the same level of care.

"It really hurts my heart to know that people are afraid to approach disabled people, or that they are afraid to be their neighbours."