Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut January 23, 2004 - 1:53 pm

A safe and special place in Happy Valley

They can't manage on their own, but these eight adults do just fine together

JANE GEORGE

The spacious green building overlooking Iqaluit looks much like the other family homes in Happy Valley.

But this residence is different - it’s a safe and special group home for eight Nunavut adults who are mentally handicapped and can’t manage living on their own.

Six women and two men, aged 23 to 50, share the home where they receive round-the-clock supervision from staff and manager Eileen Moyles.

On a recent sunny winter morning, several residents relax in the large, comfortable living room, where the television is on. One woman is busy having her morning bath, while another is getting an injection from a visiting nurse.

There’s a family-like familiarity in the exchanges between the residents.

“They get used to each other. They’re like brothers and sisters,” says Moyles.

Most have lived for years at the group home, which is occupied to full capacity.

“I know each of them,” Moyles continues. “Like you know your family. You get attached to them as if they were your own.”

Moyles and her staff get the residents out of their beds in the morning, assist them with getting dressed as well as with their breakfasts and baths.

Then, those residents who are able take care of some housekeeping chores around the residence.

Each day, weather permitting, there is an activity - it could be a drive around town, a special outing to a movie matinée or, as was the case in December, watching Iqaluit’s annual Christmas parade. In summer, residents and staff often head out to a tent that’s set up along the Road-to-Nowhere for tea or berry-picking.

Monday nights are reserved for bingo. Saturday morning, there’s a special “Sunday school” and the Salvation Army or volunteers occasionally come in to lead sing-alongs. Music is a popular pastime among the residents, and Emily proudly shows off her CD player and collection of CDS.

Each bedroom in the home is large and bright, decorated with personal items and toys.

Clearly, Moyles, a native of Newfoundland, dotes on her charges. In fact, she won’t leave them unless she’s absolutely sure they’re well taken care of. At night, Moyles keeps one ear open for any sounds, since she sleeps in an apartment located right under the home.

Moyles has replacement staff to work in the evenings and on weekends.

Often it’s Moyles’s own children or husband who pitch in with the care.

“After all day, you need some time and someone you can trust to come in,” she says.

Finding stable staff who enjoy the work is important.

“It’s challenging,” she says. “It’s not a job for everyone.”

Moyles starts work regularly at 8 a.m. during the week, without fail.

“I’ve got to be, or else they don’t get fed and bathed,” she says.

Moyles said she’d like to see more community members visit occasionally as volunteers.

The residents may be not be forgotten by their families, but Moyles says none receive regular visits. Only one goes home to see his family in Pangnirtung twice a year.

Although all the residents are Inuit, from different communities in Nunavut, none of the current staff are Inuit. This means the residents, despite their mental limitations, are bilingual or use only English.

The group residence is run by Ivik, a company contracted by the GN to deliver services at the group home, in the same way that the GN contracts out the operation of other, similar residences in the Kivalliq region.

But the need for adult group homes, says Moyles, is greater than what her group home can provide because she often receives calls asking if there is space.

“Eight is as much as you can take care of and do it justice,” she says.

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