CUPE is asking the Social Development Minister to save Saint John Group Homes

Saint John: The Union representing the employees of New Direction in Saint John is calling upon the government to save their community residences from closure.

“Last week, the Board of Directors of New Direction informed CUPE Local 4569, which represents Residential Care Workers working in its three group homes, that they are shutting down all of its facilities by the end of December”, said CUPE Representative Vallie Stearns.

“The Board of Directors told us they can’t afford to operate the group homes any longer due to ‘projected financials and inadequate funding’. Apparently, they lost approximately $100,000 in funding revenues in the last fiscal year, and $70,000 to date in this fiscal year”, explained Stearns.

The Union will be presenting a letter to Social Development Minister Sue Stultz asking for the immediate reinstatement of funding.

“For years now, we have been on a roller coaster,” said Cheryl Nice, President of CUPE Local 4569. “Too many beds have been empty for too long, even though there are plenty of people who need our services. The Department of Social Development has forced New Direction to close homes and re-open them in the past by withdrawing placements. Who will take care of the mentally ill? Non-profit agencies cannot provide reliable care unless the Department of Social Development increases per diem rates and provides stable placements,” explained CUPE Local 4569 President, Cheryl Nice.

The closure of New Direction will result in the loss of 13 full-time and 13 part-time jobs, and the loss of three houses providing 18 beds for adults struggling with mental illness and other disabilities. New Direction Inc., a non-profit agency, has been providing community residential services since the late 1970s in the Saint John area and at one point operated five houses with a total of 30 beds.

According to Cheryl Nice, the impact of this closure will be even greater on the residents. “This agency provides homes for adults in our community that struggle with mental illness and other disabilities. For those people, the community residences operated by New Direction are their home. If suitable placements cannot be found for our clients, they will end up in below-standard homes, leading some of them to live on the streets.”

According to the President of the New Brunswick Council of Group Home Unions, Romana Sehic, “The Government is turning its back on the most vulnerable in our society. What will happen to our clients if agencies such as New Direction are forced to close? Are we going back to institutionalization? Group home services are vital to those suffering from mental illness; vital to them and vital to society as a whole,” concluded Sehic.