By Chris Pickup

True Experience is extending its services to establish another assisted living group home in Dunnville.

The non-profit, established in 1982 to help people with mental health issues live healthy, fulfilling lifestyles, opened its first group home in 1989 at 213 Lock Street, with seven beds. 

It remains the only such supportive housing in the whole of Haldimand, but is now having to turn people away for lack of beds.

Director Donna Longarini was at council in committee Tuesday to ask for a zoning bylaw to permit another, six bed group home at 444 Broad Street West on the corner of Helena, with potential occupancy for nine people. Plans are to duplicate the Lock Street experience. 

Longarini told council the group home is “more than a roof over heads. It is supporting its residents in all areas”, including help with medications, healthy food, and work opportunities. 

The Lock Street home, Opportunity House, was initially protested by neighbours who soon turned supportive as they became friends with residents, who helped with neighbourhood tasks such as shovelling sidewalks.

A canvass of the Broad Street neighbours indicate they are okay with the proposed home. They are familiar with the organization and a public meeting held November 6 attracted no-one, Longarini said. “That’s a good sign”.

Staffing is 10-12 hours daily with a staff person always on call after hours. 

Residents are taken to medical appointments in the organization’s van, go grocery shopping and do household chores for when they gain independence, although some remain long term. Each resident pays rent.

Respect and financial support for the work True Experience is doing has come from far and wide as well as the closer community. Dunnville Grand Tour cycling event and silent auction raised $50,000. A couple from Hamilton who lost their son to suicide honoured his memory after doing some research.  $15,000 came from the Mindful Gala in Hamilton. Dunnville Rotary golf tournament raised $8,000. And several individuals have made donations.

Councillor Dan Lawrence asked where residents come from.

“Haldimand first” Langorini said. “Haldimand is our priority.” Applicants are given a tour of the house, have a meal, perhaps spend a couple of nights before being invited to move in. 

It’s important they are a good fit with the rest of the residents.”

The proposed rezoning carried unanimously Tuesday. When ratified Monday night, there will be a 28 day appeal period and by the second week of January the zoning should be final and the home free to get up and running.