The opportunity for meaningful social, recreational and leisure activities is important in anyone's life. But perhaps more important, is the ability for people to choose those activities themselves.
In this episode of Community Living Out Loud, host Peter Reynolds speaks with Steve Farstad, Day Support Manager at Community Living Mississauga, about the organization's "Base Sites", which provides these opportunities both on-site and in the community.
Together they discuss eligibility, activities, costs, and the importance of community inclusion for the people they support. Tune in to learn more about this amazing program and the value of empowering people with intellectual disabilities to make their own choices.
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COMMUNITY LIVING OUT LOUD
EP.7 BASE SITES
PETER REYNOLDS: Welcome to Community Living Out Loud, brought to you by Community Living Mississauga. I'm your host, Peter Reynolds. On this podcast, we celebrate the lives of people who have an intellectual disability and the incredible work being done to advocate for them and their families. Through conversations with experts, advocates, and people with lived experiences, we hope to inspire and educate listeners on the importance of building strong, supportive communities. Let's get loud. Today, we're diving into Community Living Mississauga's base sites, which provide people who have an intellectual disability with community opportunities to participate in meaningful social, recreational, and leisure activities throughout the day. We'll learn who's eligible to attend, what they can expect throughout the day, and what costs are involved. We'll also explore the value of community integration and why it's critical to Community Living Mississauga that the people they support make their own choices. And someone who has made a choice to join us here today is Steve Farstad, Day Support Manager at Community Living Mississauga. Steve, welcome to the podcast.
STEVEN FARSTAD: Thanks for having me, Peter. Glad to be on.
PETER REYNOLDS: Steve, maybe we could start with the most obvious question. What is a base site?
STEVEN FARSTAD: Yeah. A bass sight is really. a collection of, there's a kitchen, a cafe area, there's usually a couple sitting areas, some other rooms where we can do different activities, really everything we would need to be able to do in-house activities at the time that we do that, but also a place for people to gather at the start of the day, a place to leave their coats, their backpacks if they need to before they head out and enjoy what they're going to do out in the community that day. So, very much a home away from home? Yeah, it is. A lot of people really love the Bay site. We try to make it feel like home for people. We've got same kind of furniture you'd have in your house, same kind of appliances when we do different cooking classes and things like that, which I'm sure we'll talk about, right? We've also got accessible lifts in our bathrooms for people who require support with personal care, things like that. The base sites also have some agency vans as well that we use to support people out in the community. And most of the base sites have vans that are accessible with lifts and ramps, but we also have some non-accessible vehicles as well.
PETER REYNOLDS: For those people listening and watching, describe to me a typical day at a base site for one of the people you support.
STEVEN FARSTAD: Typically people arrive somewhere around 9 or 9.30, give or take, and they'll come in They'll hand their medications to the staff that are greeting them there. Sometimes they'll come with family, we'll drop them off. Sometimes they come by trans help or by taxi even. And when they get there, like I said, they'll drop their, they'll hand their medication off to the staff. They'll take off their coats, leave their backpacks, maybe take their lunches and put them in the fridge, something like that. And then there's time to just kind of have conversation and hang out. A lot of people will really enjoy this social time, right? And they get to talk to their peers. A lot of people really look forward to seeing people that they only sometimes get to see once a week. And so during that time, the staff are kind of supporting everyone, they're getting things organized, planning for the day. And once we have an idea of who's actually coming, sometimes somebody will not be feeling well, not come for whatever reason, maybe taking vacation. Once we know who's actually there that day, we'll finalize the groups and start to plan out who's going to be going out, what activities they're doing, who will be staying in and what activities they're doing in-house, those sorts of things. And as we're getting ready to go out, the staff will support anyone with personal care as they need, if they need support using the washroom, maybe getting things ready for their lunch, if they're going to be out all day, they'll bring their lunch with them, that sort of thing. And so from there, we try to be out of the doors by 10.30 at the latest, ideally 10 a.m., but you know how it is with sometimes up to 30 people all going in different directions at the same time. It can be pretty busy. And so what we do is the staff that are supporting the group, they'll know who they're supporting that day. They'll get everyone together, make sure they've got what they need. And they'll head out either in one of the agency vans or in one of their own vehicles. Staff do use their personal vehicles sometimes. And then we'll go out and we'll do things in the community. And sometimes, like I said, it's a half day, sometimes it's a full day. And they'll, if they're out for the day, they'll bring their lunch, they'll have their lunch wherever it is, or maybe do a couple of different things and stop for lunch kind of in between, right?
PETER REYNOLDS: I'm really getting the sense, Steve, of this idea of it being very much a kind of a family environment. And I can only imagine if people are coming to the base site for years, they're really developing strong relationships with both their peers and staff.
STEVEN FARSTAD: Yeah, definitely. I know there are some people that really look forward to seeing particular staff that they really have a great rapport with. And we're very fortunate that we have some staff that have been with the agency for a very long time, even decades. And so those relationships are very strong, right? And in some cases, people are attending five days a week. They're spending six hours a day with the staff five days a week, so there really are some pretty strong bonds. It really does start to feel like family.
PETER REYNOLDS: I know you start to talk about the activities, and I definitely want to get into that. I visited a base site myself, so I have a general sense of what goes on there, from arts and crafts projects to kitchen-related projects, home mech, just general life skills. to being able to go out and do different activities. Can you talk a little bit about how that decision process is made and how you decide what activities are going to be done and when?
STEVEN FARSTAD: First and foremost, we do the things that people want to do. We want to do the things that people identify either as a goal, an interest, a want. And so we do that, we do a mix of different activities. And a lot of times what'll happen is somebody will, maybe one person wants to go do something in particular, maybe go to the car show, for example, and they'll go with two other people in that group. And of those two people, maybe somebody else really decides that they like the car shows or they're really into cars. And so it's, it ends up working out for everyone. Everyone really enjoys themselves and they kind of feed off of each other's interests and, and goals. And so kind of taking a step back when somebody starts at the base site, we do what we call a independent support plan with them and we identify what their interests are, what their likes are, their dislikes, everything that they like to do in a day, that sort of thing. And we use that then to help them identify a goal or two that they want specific to attending the base site. And some people are very, very into something in particular, right? Like cars or comics or something like that. And so we do our best to plan activities around those things that people are interested in. And so The Bay site supervisors and the staff, they'll look, they kind of keep their eyes open all the time for different things that are advertised or pop up on their social media feeds, different ads for whatever events are coming up. And so we'll do the research, buy the tickets, make the plans and have those things in place so that We can map out a schedule, we kind of map a week ahead of time in advance and then adjust as necessary. If we were planning to go, for example, to the auto show and that person wasn't in that day because they weren't feeling well, of course we reschedule that and go at a time when they could go.
PETER REYNOLDS: I can see that being very challenging because, as you were saying, you can have up to 30 people there, all with potentially very differing interests. And you may have someone who's just obsessed with cooking and wants to just learn new recipes and spend time in the kitchen while another person might be totally into the movies and always wanting to go to the movies. How do you balance those choices so you're not doing 30 different activities?
STEVEN FARSTAD: Yeah, that's a great question. We really It's not just balancing the activities, it's balancing personalities, people's needs, their wants, their support needs. And so the staff really, they do a great job of planning out so that the groups that are going out together are people that generally get along well with each other. They like to go out as a group. At the same time, we do mix it up. We don't always send the same group of three out, but if we know that there's a group of three that really gets along well, we'll send them out more often than we would just kind of randomizing the groups, right? Actually, I would say we don't really ever randomize. It's always planned and thought out because we want to make sure that the staff is able to support everybody, right? Generally, we're supporting people that have a variety of support needs and potentially issues that the staff needs to be aware of and monitoring while they're out in the community. And so if somebody, if the group has three people that are all, have a tendency to wander off, that really doesn't make for a very good group, right? So at most you want one person that is maybe going to be tempted to kind of follow whatever catches their eye and the other two will stick close to them, that sort of thing, right? And when it comes to interests, like I said, a lot of times people look forward to going to something they've never done before because they've been to other things in the past that they didn't go to in the past and they found that they really loved it. And so I think Over time, as somebody attends the Bay site, that kind of fear of trying new things really dissipates because they see how much they enjoyed trying new things.
PETER REYNOLDS: I thought that's a very interesting point, because you can imagine that in many cases, the person's life might have been somewhat sheltered, and they haven't had the opportunity to do a lot of these things, because they simply haven't had the support, or it's never been suggested to them. that ability to not only do the things that they want to do, but to have that encouragement to try new things, to get outside of their comfort zone, seems like something very worthwhile.
STEVEN FARSTAD: Yeah, definitely. And we, I mean, we really do a lot of different things. We'll do, like I mentioned, the auto show. We'll go to ticketed events. We'll go to Blue Jays games in the summer when they have the day games. We'll go and watch the Raptors 905. If the leafs are practicing during the day, we'll try and catch that. In the summer, we do anything and everything outdoors that's fun that people like to do. If there's a nature area, we've been there. If it's within driving distance, we go as far as even Niagara on the lake in the summer. As long as we can get there within about an hour or so, it gives us enough time to really do something meaningful at the other end. before we have to turn around and head back to be back for the end of the day. And so there is really a terrific variety of things that people get to participate in when they attend a base site.
PETER REYNOLDS: So it sounds fantastic. Who is eligible to attend the base site?
STEVEN FARSTAD: Mm-hmm. So our criteria are that the person needs to be at least 21 years of age, a resident of Mississauga, and vaccinated against COVID-19 currently. That may change in the future, but as of now, that is a requirement of the program. Also, people that are not currently enrolled in school. If somebody is already enrolled in school, or generally if they're working a job or something like that, it's probably that's a priority in their life as opposed to attending a social recreational program. And generally it's, in general terms, people who have exhausted all their other options and services.
PETER REYNOLDS: And just to be clear, this is a Monday to Friday program.
STEVEN FARSTAD: Yes, Monday to Friday, our hours are nine to four generally, Monday to Friday. They really don't vary from that unless Yeah, they really don't vary from that.
PETER REYNOLDS: Exceptions are when we have staff meetings. Considering my own son has been in, I imagine in kindergarten or in times he's had a late pickup or there's been those individual situations happen, I can see that being something that might happen on occasion. A quick thought was So someone is watching this and they're really excited about this idea of the base site and the opportunities it presents. How does someone apply? What is the first step?
STEVEN FARSTAD: So all of our intake, if you want to call it that, everyone coming into the program is through Developmental Services Ontario. They manage the wait list for all four of our base sites now. And that wasn't always the case, but in the summer of 2023, that changed, and now they manage all intake for us. And so the first step really is to contact the DSO, and you can find your local contact through their website, dsonterio.ca, and let them know that you or your loved one is interested in day supports, specifically attending a bay site, and has to be placed on the registry. It's not a wait list from what I understand. A traditional wait list is in order of call, but this one is called a registry because there are other factors considered, including the intensity of need for support and the person's current circumstances.
PETER REYNOLDS: So you touched on it a little earlier with the intake process. So once they've been accepted into the program, and walk us through that, that first meeting, that first interview, what's exactly going on there?
STEVEN FARSTAD: So we, we're currently accepting new participants and so we're receiving names weekly from the DSO. We had a number of people who, for whatever reason, after we reopened after COVID-19, decided not to return. Some had found other programs, some had done, are doing other things now. And so we have some vacancies open right now. And so the DSO sends us a list of names with their contact information, some files so that we can do some background research and know a little bit about them before we make that first call. On that first call, we do what we call a pre-screener. We just ask a few questions to make sure that all those criteria that I mentioned are met, that the person meets the age criteria, lives in Mississauga, has their COVID vaccine up to date, that sort of thing. If everything looks good and the other person is still interested and it sounds like a fit, then we'll arrange a tour. Generally that's within a week or so and we have the person come. ideally with their loved one or their caregiver, or their support staff. If they're supported residentially by either our agency or another one, they can have somebody come with them. And we'll give them a tour of the base site that really is ideally closest to them, but sometimes we have to make it one of the other base sites that would best meet their needs. And we'll show them around, introduce them to the staff, the other people that are attending the base site, talk a bit about what we do, show them some of the activities that are planned for that day, for example. And at the end of that tour, if it looks still like the person's interested, then we have an application form they would complete. From there, it really becomes about just kind of dotting the I's and crossing the T's. So there's a process, we'll determine the start date, send out a welcome package that includes all the information that they would need, some consent forms that we would need back from them, and they would return that to us, and we would get the person started on that day that they were due to start. Is there a cost involved? Yes. So it's $80 per day to attend a base site. And so if somebody has passport funding, generally the base passport funding will cover about one day of attendance per week. That said, we do have people that will pay from their own funds or they'll supplement the passport funding with their own funds so that they can attend more than just the one day of a week or whatever their passport funding allows for.
PETER REYNOLDS: Steve, can you define passport funding?
STEVEN FARSTAD: Yeah, so Passport is a specific pool of funding that people with intellectual disabilities can apply for, and it covers a number of things, one of those being meaningful social recreational activities. And so Bayside is one of the programs that does qualify to use Passport funding towards
PETER REYNOLDS: I'd like to talk a little bit about this idea of community integration and how that's evolved throughout the years. Because you can imagine you have a facility where you can do different activities recreationally, socially, from cooking to arts and crafts to exercise. But there's a real push to make sure that the individuals that you serve, the people that you serve, are getting out into the community. Can you talk about the reason why that's so important to Community Living Mississauga?
STEVEN FARSTAD: It is, I mean, we really focus on inclusion. We want the people that we support to be fully included as anybody else would be in whatever activity it is that they're doing out in the community. So we've done things, for example, we'll go to the, they have cooking classes at like the Loblaws Superstores, for example, and we'll support somebody to go there. And we want that person to be treated the same as anybody else who has paid to be there in that class. And sometimes it requires a little bit of work on behalf of the support staff to encourage that facilitator or that chef, whoever's leading that class, to talk directly to the person that we're supporting rather than to the staff. Sometimes they'll tend to speak to the staff rather than the person who's signed up and paid for the class. It's a little bit of facilitation around helping to explain things to the person that's being supported. And a lot of times it's about really helping the people that are there attending the class see that the person that we're supporting can do the things that they're doing there and they can participate just like anybody else can, right? And it, A big piece of the reason that we do it is so that we can educate the public on the value that people have. with an intellectual disability, the value they can bring, and to make sure that they see that, hey, this is somebody that I thought maybe couldn't do this, and I'm seeing them do it now. So it causes some, hopefully some change in thought process within people, right?
PETER REYNOLDS: So it's good for the people you support, but it's also good for the community.
STEVEN FARSTAD: Yes, absolutely.
PETER REYNOLDS: Yeah. We've also, and I've heard you use the word choice a number of times, and the importance of choice. Again, one can imagine the easiest approach would be we have everyone in one location. Here are the activities we're going to be doing. You've already planned for it. There are no surprises. you're not interested in taking the easy route. You want to make sure to give people as much choice as possible. Can you talk about the importance of that?
STEVEN FARSTAD: Yeah, definitely. I think, like you say, it would be easy just to pre-plan groups, go to places that are easy to get to, that are easy to support people in, and easy to manage for the staff, but that's not what it's about. It's about first and foremost, helping people pick the things they want to do, choose the activities they'd like to be involved in, select their own goals, identify them and really give people choice, not just over the big thing, like the activity they're going to do on that day, but let them choose where they want to sit in the van on the way there as much as possible. Let them choose whether they're going to bring their lunch with them or whether they're going to purchase it there or something like that. As much choice as we can give people, we do.
PETER REYNOLDS: So I obviously can hear in your voice that you're very passionate about the work that you do. And I'm wondering if you could just tell us a little bit about why you got into this work and what keeps you passionate every day?
STEVEN FARSTAD: I originally was in mental health support services, and we did support people there that have a dual diagnosis, people with a co-occurring mental health issue and an intellectual disability. And so I already had an introduction into developmental services, I guess that way, and really enjoyed working with people I enjoyed working with everybody but when it came time to look for something new, I applied at Community Living Mississauga and actually I started at Bay Sight on a maternity leave contract. I did a very brief stint in a Bay Sight and I loved it and that's what got me to stick around. I really got to see how it feels like family, see how much people are respected and how much choice they're given in their lives, right? And so I've kind of woven my way through the agency a little bit. I've done a stint in residential support and now I'm back in Bay site and really loving it.
PETER REYNOLDS: Fantastic. Any final thoughts?
STEVEN FARSTAD: I think Yeah, if anyone listening has a loved one who is looking for something meaningful to do during the day, who wants to get out and do something that they're interested in and spend some time with some other fantastic people, then absolutely get your name on the registry list with the DSO.
PETER REYNOLDS: Steve, thanks so much for joining us today. I've really learned a lot about base sites, but more importantly, the commitment Community Living Mississauga has to self-determination and community integration. Thank you. You're welcome. Thanks for having me. And thank you, as always, to our audience. We really appreciate your continued support. And whether you're watching this on YouTube or listening wherever you get your favorite podcasts, be sure to subscribe and leave a review. We really want to hear what you think. So for Steve and everyone here at Community Living Mississauga, I'm your host, Peter Reynolds. You've been listening to Community Living Out Loud. And until next time, stay loud.