In November of 1952, a small group of concerned and committed parents put an advertisement in the Brantford Expositor to determine interest in starting a school for children with a developmental disability. By December of that year, five children were attending a school program in the basement of Immanuel Baptist Church, and within three months that number had more than doubled. The school was dependent upon donations and volunteers with one such group being the Bus Drivers Association, who bought the first bus. This was the beginning of “The Brantford and District Association for Retarded Children” with the first Annual General Meeting being held in February, 1954.
After many years, the Association was able to fundraise $50,000 and secure $40,000 from government grants to build the Jane Laycock School on Mt. Pleasant Street. With educational services now being provided, the Association began to seek out the ways and means to provide services for people of all ages. In March of 1962, “The Brant County Foundation for the Mentally Retarded” (now “The Brant County Foundation for Persons with Developmental Needs”) was established. The Foundation manages and utilizes funds from donations and bequests with their primary focus being the provision of homes for people receiving service from the Association. In the fall of 1964, the Association changed its name to “The Brantford and District Association for the Mentally Retarded” thereby setting as its mandate “the provision and development of services for all individuals with a developmental disability”. In 1964, the first nursery school was opened in the basement of Central Presbyterian Church. Also in 1964, the first sheltered workshop was opened for twenty men and women. The activities centred around contract work for local industries, crafts and life skill training.
In October 1972, the Andrew Donaldson Developmental Centre opened providing a nursery school for children with a developmental disability. In June 1973, the Samuel Stedman Community Residence opened its doors to eighteen adults many of whom were discharged from Provincial Institutions. In June of 1973, additional space was required at A.R.C. Industries, resulting in the Association leasing, and subsequently, buying property on Wilkes Street. Through A.R.C., a number of innovative opportunities were created. Janitorial crews cleaned numerous offices and factories throughout the community and a woodworking shop housed in A.R.C. built a variety of lawn furniture, toys, etc. The operation of a Gas Bar on Colborne Street was followed by the opening of a fruit stand and gas bar in Paris. At the end of 1973, a triplex was purchased on Burnley Avenue and the first opportunity for apartment living began. This was followed by the leasing of a number of additional apartments and homes throughout the community.
The first group Home was opened in March 1975 on Park Avenue and provided services for seven adults.
In 1980, three residential programs were developed for children aged five to eighteen. A townhouse and two apartments were replaced by three single family swellings in the late 80’s. The Community Activity Program began in the mid 80’s, and by the late 1980’s, the Samuel Stedman Community Residence was closed. Through a variety of initiatives, seven homes were purchased during the 1980’s. People moving into these homes were from Samuel Stedman Residence, the community waiting list and the Provincial Institutions. The “Supported Living” Apartment Program had tripled and a “Townhouse Program” was introduced. In 1989, the smaller A.R.C. Industries sites were replaced by Dunn Enterprises, which operated production facilities, Mortimer’s Restaurant and Gift Shop, a catering service, and supported employment. In November of 1989, the Association changed its name to “The Brantford and District Association for Community Living”.
In 1990, the Association’s Head Office moved into the Samuel Stedman Building. In 1991, plans began to build the first home outside of Brantford, and after an extensive process with Town Council and the local resident, our first house in Paris was completed in 1993. In 1993, Head Office relocated to 330 West Street to allow for the people in the rapidly growing Community Activity Program to utilize the building as a meeting point. In the early 1990’s, the Friendships UNlimited (F.U.N.) Program was established through fundraised revenue and a Seniors Program was developed through an 18-month Health Innovations Fund Grant.
With new community supports and a focus on integration, there was a steady decline in enrollment at the Andrew Donaldson Developmental Centre. In 1993, the very difficult decision was made to close the Centre. The Association was committed to ensuring that its expertise in supporting children would continue, and as a result, were chosen to develop and operate a Professional Resource Centre for all children up to 12 years. The P.R.C., which opened in 1994, became an invaluable resource for families, educators and caregivers.
Lots of housing changes occurred in the 1990’s. The agency’s first two Group Homes on Park Avenue and Chatham Street were aging, and a decision was made to sell them along with another home. Two townhouses operating as group homes were also closed. One new home was purchased in Harley along with three in Brantford, and through multi-year planning and facility depopulation, one new house was built in Brantford and one house purchased in Burford. Apartments in high rise buildings were leased with staffing supports on site creating an Enhanced Supported Living option for people, and in 1996, a family purchased a home for their son and two roommates. In 1995, the Board of Directors approved the establishment of an “Associate Family Program” designed to provide people receiving services with an opportunity to live within a family.
In 1997, a small, dedicated group of parents met to discuss their concerns with the Family Benefits Act (FBA) Disability Pension. As a result of lobbying effort, the “Parents Group” was instrumental in affecting change to the pension and benefits for adults with a developmental disability in the province. While economic conditions forced the closure of Mortimer’s Restaurant at the Dunn Building, the Association did operate the Mohawk Munchies Concession Stand at Mohawk Park for three summers. A Rights Committee was formed to ensure that people whose rights were being limited or restricted had access to due process. In response to the Ministry’s “Making Services Work for People” policy framework, Contact Brant was established in 1999. The mandate of Contact Brant was to provide a single point of access for children’s and developmental services resulting in people no longer being able to apply directly to the Association for service.
Through a restructuring in 2000, the home on Spartan Drive became a respite only house offering more “parent relief” opportunities in a less intrusive situation.
Two homes were sold and the first semi-detached home was built in 2001, a second in Paris in 2005 and a third in 2008. In 2001, the Association began to provide support to young people through Foundations – a transitional initiative for young adults as they leave the school system. As a result of a new provincial initiative in 2001, the Professional Resource Centre for Child Care was closed and the Association was approved to operate the new Ontario Early Years Centre in Brant. The OEYC officially opened in March 2002.
In May 2002, the Association purchased the property at 366 Dalhousie Street for the new Head Office. The relocation to this office took place in November, 2002. In 2003, a Self-Advocates Group was developed. At the Annual General Meeting 2003, the Membership approved a name change for the Association to “Community Living Brant”. In 2004, the Minister of Community and Social Services announced a Transformation of Services for People with a Developmental Disability to create an accessible, fair and sustainable system of community-based supports. Shortly after, the announcement was made that the Ontario government was committed to the closure of the three remaining institutions by March 2009.
The number of young people receiving support through Young Adults in Transition more than doubled and it was becoming increasingly clear that their expectations for service were very different than the “standard” supports that had been offered over many years. Interest in Supported Employment was also increasing along with opportunities for small business ventures, such as catering, lawn care, a hot dog cart, recycling, knitting and greeting card businesses, to name a few. In 2006, the Respite Program from 45 Spartan Drive relocated to the 1016 Colborne Street East location, and following renovations in 2007, three young people moved into the home on Spartan Drive. A three-year “Aging at Home” initiative through the Ministry of Health enabled us to provide additional respite.
In 2007, Community Living Brant proudly sponsored a successful first of its kind in Canada “Community Life Conference”. In 2008, The Self-Advocates Committee “R.E.A.C.H. OUT” sponsored a conference with 140 self-advocates from 27 cities in attendance. That same year saw the Kiwanis sponsored AKTION club for adults with disabilities receive its charter membership from Kiwanis International. Community Living Brant welcomed back many people from the Provincial institutions over the years, and on March 31, 2009, a service of reflection and a celebration were held to mark this historical occasion of the final closure of these facilities.
On March 11, 2010, Canadians with disabilities celebrated as Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities. This was our country’s declaration that disability is to be recognized as a matter of fundamental human rights. Canada played a lead role in developing the convention and is recognized as an international leader in this area. In 2010, the first Class Action lawsuit was launched against the Province alleging that the Province of Ontario breached its fiduciary, statutory and common law duties to care for and protect class members resulting in loss or injury suffered by them. In 2011, The Brant County Foundation for Persons with Developmental Needs built a house on 394 Park Road to replace an existing long-term rental. Community Living Brant is most fortunate to have had a relationship with the “Foundation” since 1963, during which they have been involved with the purchase/building of 9 homes.
In July 2011, the Provincial Application Centres opened under the name “Developmental Services Ontario”. In 2011, we celebrated 15 years of people having the option to live with an Associate Family. Many families have opened their homes and lives, and we are very appreciative and proud to be associated with these families. 2012 marked the 10th anniversary of the Ontario Early Years Centre: Brant.
In 2013, we were proud to mark and celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Community Living Brant, and celebrated with various events throughout the year.
In 2014, the Premier of Ontario delivered a formal apology to the former residents of Huronia, Rideau, and Southwestern Regional Centres. The Class Action Lawsuit for those previously living at these facilities was approved in the courts.
Our group home on Cumberland Street was closed and we began a Shared Accommodation support for five young men who alternately share their parents’ home and our space.
The last member of our founding families, Betty Scott, passed away in her 95th year.
The Ontario Early Years Centre: Brant transferred from the Ministry of Children and Youth Services to the Ministry of Education.
In 2015, we were awarded a 4-year Person-Centered Excellence Accreditation from The Council on Quality and Leadership.
We received a Provincial Housing Task Force Grant through the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
We received a Developmental Services Employment and Modernization Grant through the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
We were one of ten organizations in the province chosen to be involved in “From Presence to Citizenship: Putting Person-centred Thinking into Practice – A Knowledge Exchange Project”. A two-year initiative to share best practices and success stories in the Developmental Services Sector.”
In 2016, we were honoured to have the Minister of Community and Social Services, The Honourable Dr. Helena Jaczek, request a tour and conversation about our diverse and evolving services.
We received a Supported Employment Demonstration for Young People with Autism Spectrum Grant through the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.
From the efforts of a small and committed group of parents who came together in 1952, the Association has grown to where it now supports over 350 individuals and employs approximately 250 people, and has a total operating budget in excess of $12 million. 2013, we were very proud to celebrate Community Living Brant’s 60th Anniversary!!