May 18th, 2017

NDP bill to protect vulnerable adults in unregulated supportive living homes passes second reading

Today, a bill from Welland MPP Cindy Forster designed to protect vulnerable adults and seniors in Supportive Living Accommodations (SLAs) passed a critical vote in the legislature. 

Forster’s bill, the Protecting Vulnerable Persons in Supportive Living Accommodation Act, would put in place licensing rules for privately operated SLAs, as well as increased protections to prevent mistreatment of vulnerable high-risk adults and seniors living in this type of housing. Included among the safeguards proposed in Forster's bill is a provision that would require housing providers to be provincially licensed in order to collect ODSP cheques and other types of support payments on a resident’s behalf.

“I’ve been hearing complaints about some SLAs from support workers, tenants and families,” Forster said. “Too many vulnerable adults who are under the care of these private operators don’t have the ability to advocate for themselves. In some cases, The operator provides horrific conditions and substandard care. We simply have to stop this from happening to anyone.”

SLAs provide low-rent accommodation to vulnerable tenants who are typically considered high-needs, and often provide additional care services. In many cases, SLAs serve as an effective response to affordable housing shortages across the province, catering to high-need adults who may not necessarily qualify for long-term care. However, the lack of regulation and oversight of these services have, in some cases, exposed tenants to substandard living conditions resulting in physical harm and, tragically, even death. In 2014, despite numerous charges and warnings from municipal fire officials, a 72-year-old man died after a SLA home caught fire in London, Ontario.

“This bill addresses a very real problem that we hear about every day. I’ve gotten complaints about bed bugs, people going for weeks without toilet paper, living on reheated ground pork and noodles day after day. Some of the stories are horrific,” said George Marshall, a Regional Councillor in Welland.

Three municipalities in Ontario -- Hamilton, Windsor and St. Thomas -- have by-laws in place that set standards of care. But, starting with Welland, 45 municipalities across the province have passed motions to call on the province to create provincially enforced standards. 

“Alberta has had provincial legislation protecting their vulnerable residents living in supportive living facilities since 2010. No vulnerable resident of Ontario should receive less protection than another simply because they cannot afford a regulated facility, or because there are no protective bylaws in their municipality. We support a provincial solution to a provincial problem,” said Michael Foster, Executive Director of Justice Niagara. 

“Safe, affordable housing is a basic human need. It is also an important social determinant of health,” said Taralea McLean, Executive Director of Bridges Community Health Centre. “As a health care organization that works with many vulnerable populations, we see, firsthand, the poor health outcomes that many individuals living in these facilities suffer.” 

Forster's bill passed second reading on Thursday, and can now be scheduled for a third reading and final vote.