Matthew’s House is transitioning from respite services for children to a new model of residential care for youth who require complex medical care. (Photo: Jason Brown/Revival Arts Studio)

Funding challenges result in change of direction for Matthew’s House

Abbotsford service now looking at residential youth care, instead of respite

An Abbotsford service that provides respite care for children with complex care needs announced today (Thursday) that funding issues have resulted in it having to make a significant change.

Matthew’s House, which opened in 2013 and is operated by Communitas Supportive Care Society, will cease providing respite for kids ages four to 18 over the next few months.

Communitas chief executive officer Karyn Santiago said the organization is instead looking at providing a residential program for youth ages 16 to 24 who require complex medical care.

The program will assist up to five youth at a time as they make the transition from living at home to living in the community, such as in a group home.

Santiago said the decision was difficult and was based on financial constraints that Matthew’s House has faced and a desire to make the best of the resources it has available.

She said Matthew’s House has been unable to secure core funding towards the approximate $1.5 million in annual costs.

A successful fundraising drive and $1 million in government funding helped Matthew’s House get off the ground in 2013.

That left some funds in reserves, topped up by about $800,000 raised each year through community and private donations, including a one-time $500,000 government grant in 2016.

But it hasn’t been enough to sustain the services in the long run, Santiago said.

She said Matthew’s House ran out of its reserve funds in June. She said the home is continuing to operate with Communitas money that was not specifically earmarked for Matthew’s House.

It will cost about another $300,000 until Dec. 31, she said.

Santiago said the youth residential program will cost about the same to run as Matthew’s House, but Communitas hopes to secure core funding for that, based on different criteria the provincial government applies to residential care versus respite care.

Communitas is currently in talks with agencies such as the Ministry of Children and Family Development, Fraser Health and Community Living BC. Santiago said the plan is to roll out the changes over the next six months, with current respite services gradually being stepped down.

She said Matthew’s House has provided 100,000 hours of care and served 70 families, with 40 current active ones. They have all been notified of the change, including at a meeting on Wednesday night.

“It was a difficult and challenging evening, and I think we all cried,” Santiago said.

She said Communitas is working with those families to provide other resources, such as respite care available in the homes of skilled caregivers, continued access to the Matthew’s House adapted playground, day activities, and programs provided by other agencies, such as Canuck Place.

Santiago said 26 people are employed at Matthew’s House – eight to 10 of those on a casual basis – and they have all been offered jobs within Communitas.

Matthew’s House was opened in 2013 by Doug and Andrea Froese, whose son, Matthew, had complex health-care needs. He died in August 2010 at the age of nine.

The Froeses wanted to provide a “home away from home” where up to five children at a time could stay – under the care of skilled staff – while their parents got a bit of a break.

The home is located on the Dave Lede Campus of Care on Marshall Road, adjacent to Abbotsford Regional Hospital.

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