Bill Andrews leaves Croydon Villa – his home for the past 26 years – with his sisters Win LaCroix and Barb Andrews Thursday. (Tracy Holmes photo)

Bill Andrews leaves Croydon Villa – his home for the past 26 years – with his sisters Win LaCroix and Barb Andrews Thursday. (Tracy Holmes photo)

Families ‘blindsided’ by word longtime South Surrey group home will be closed

Last Christmas for Croydon Villa ‘family’

Linda Aubert doesn’t know how she’ll tell her brother that this Christmas will be the last he’ll share with his tight-knit ‘family’ at Croydon Villa; that he is losing the only home he’s known for the past decade.

“Ronnald doesn’t even understand the fact that my parents are dead,” Aubert said of her 59-year-old sibling, who moved into the two-storey, bright blue group home on Croydon Drive in April 2010.

Nonetheless, it’s a message she’ll have to deliver sooner rather than later, following news the specialized residential care facility is to cease operating as a group home early next year.

“It’s one of those things you think, it really can’t be happening,” Aubert said. “How do you move people that don’t comprehend what’s going on?”

Aubert said she and family members of four other residents who live at the home were “blindsided” in August by word that Croydon Villa’s doors would be closing. It was shared during a meeting with Community Living B.C. officials that Aubert says she’d initially understood was to be solely about reassessing her brother. She only discovered it was something more when she called the agency to try and re-schedule, she said.

Then, in late September, the expected closure date was bumped up by six months, to January from July, she said.

While Aubert said CLBC “made some noise about audits” when she asked for an explanation for the closure, an emailed statement to Peace Arch News from the agency this week said the move is one of two underway in South Surrey, and that both are due to the service providers retiring.

“Our goal is to provide people with stable, long-term homes,” the statement, provided Monday afternoon, reads. “However, when a group home provider retires, or cancels their contract, people may have to move from one home to another. This is the situation for two staffed houses in Surrey that are homes to five and seven individuals respectively.”

The statement adds that when a move is required, “CLBC staff work with the individuals, their families and the providers to find new homes that they are happy with and meet their support needs.”

“Staff will support these individuals to stay connected and continue to be part of each other’s lives.”

Aubert and the sisters of another resident, Bill Andrews, say finding appropriate care for their loved ones is not an easy task, and they are scrambling.

Win LaCroix said one place that CLBC suggested for 72-year-old Bill, who was one of Croydon Villa’s original residents, was, to them, “reminiscent of Woodlands” – the New Westminster institution infamous for the physical, mental and sexual abuse that many children suffered within its walls before it closed in 1996.

READ MORE: Woodlands’ survivors promised $10,000 compensation by B.C. government

She didn’t want to name the facility that she and her sister Barb Andrews visited, but described it as “very sterile,” with “lockdown doors” and other characteristics they were “quite horrified” to see.

“He’s what they call a survivor of Woodlands,” LaCroix said of her brother.

“There was many things that totally told us (the suggested facility) was not the place for Bill. To put Bill in a setting like that… he would be at risk.”

Years ago, when the family found Croydon Villa, “we thought we had found heaven for Bill,” she said.

READ MORE: South Surrey fundraiser aims to raise awareness

Word of its closure – which the sisters have so far only hinted at to their brother – “has been handled terribly,” she said.

“It was very upsetting for all the residents’ families as well. It was a complete surprise.”

Homeowner Aurora Salem, who operates Croydon Villa with her husband Roland, declined to comment on the closure, preferring to leave “the narrative” to families, but told PAN she considers the residents “more than my family.”

“They’re more family than my blood family,” she said. “It’s a pure joy working with them.”

Aubert said she took a chance when she placed her brother, who has Down syndrome, at the group home after her dad was no longer able to care for him.

Ronnald had never been in “the system” before, she noted, and she remembers being nervous about how it might affect him.

While it took a year at Croydon Villa before he understood it was home and stopped trying to pack his suitcase to leave, Aubert said Ronnald has “flourished” ever since. He came out of his shell and even began expressing his opinions – something he’d not done before, she said.

The bond he developed with the other residents “just never changes,” she added.

Aubert said full credit for the progress goes to Croydon Villa staff and the Salems, and that she is “deathly afraid” the closure will take it all away. She still has “no idea” where he will go.

Aubert said the families realize they can’t stop the closure – although letters have been sent to the ombudsman and the premier regarding the issue.

Knowledge it is coming, however, makes the residents’ Christmas party this Saturday all the more bittersweet.

“This family is having their last Christmas together,” Aubert said, her voiced choked with emotion.



tholmes@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Ronnald Uszkalo expresses himself during a visit to Croydon Villa Thursday. (Tracy Holmes photo)

Ronnald Uszkalo expresses himself during a visit to Croydon Villa Thursday. (Tracy Holmes photo)

Linda Aubert shares a moment with her brother Ronnald Uszkalo. (Tracy Holmes photo)

Linda Aubert shares a moment with her brother Ronnald Uszkalo. (Tracy Holmes photo)

Linda Aubert is concerned for her brother Ronnald’s future. (Tracy Holmes photo)

Linda Aubert is concerned for her brother Ronnald’s future. (Tracy Holmes photo)

Just Posted

Fraser Health has declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Newton Elementary School in Surrey, according to an information bulletin Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. (Image: Google Street View)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at second Surrey elementary school

Newton Elementary closed for two weeks, set to reopen Dec. 14

Joy Johnson, seen here during an installation ceremony on Oct. 22, is Simon Fraser University’s 10th president and vice-chancellor. (Submitted photo)
SFU’s Surrey campus tackling COVID-19-related research

‘We can learn now,’ SFU president Joy Johnson said, ‘so should something like this happen again we’ll be prepared. We have to learn from this current pandemic’

Mayor Darryl Walker gives a welcoming hug to Semiahmoo First Nation Chief Harley Chappell at the inaugural meeting of the current White Rock council in 2018. (Alex Browne photo)
White Rock council under fire for inaugural prayer

BC Humanist Association charges city violated Supreme Court ruling two years ago

Chief Robert Gladstone of Shxwha:y Village at a federal flood funding announcement April 24, 2019. (Jenna Hauck/Chilliwack Progress file)
Consortium of Indigenous chiefs seeking a way to participate in cannabis economy

All Nations Chiefs from the Shxwha:y, Cheam, Soowahlie and Sq’ewlets holding online forum Dec. 2

Delta Fire unveiled its new mascot, Flash, this week at North Delta’s Cougar Canyon Elementary School with Grade 2 student Theo Wong, who won pizza for his entire class for submitting the mascot’s name. (Submitted photo)
PHOTOS: Delta fire debuts new mascot

‘Flash’ presented a class at North Delta’s Cougar Canyon Elementary with a pizza lunch

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks along the seawall in North Vancouver Wednesday, November 25, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
911 new COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths as B.C. sees deadliest week since pandemic began

Hospitalizations reach more than 300 across the province

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

The decision was appealed by both the defence and the Crown

Gold medallists in the ice dance, free dance figure skating Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, of Canada, pose during their medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Charlie Riedel
Olympic champions Virtue, Moir and Tewksbury among 114 Order of Canada inductees

Moir and Virtue catapulted to national stardom with their gold-medal performances at the Winter Olympics in 2018

Shoppers line up in front of a shop on Montreal’s Saint-Catherine Street in search of Black Friday deals in Montreal, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Black Friday shopping in a pandemic: COVID-19 closes some stores, sales move online

Eric Morris, head of retail at Google Canada, says e-commerce in Canada has doubled during the pandemic.

Chilliwack school board trustee Barry Neufeld is taking heat over using a ableist slur to refer to three Black Press employees. (Paul Henderson/ Progress file)
BC School Trustees Association president keeps heat on Chilliwack Trustee Barry Neufeld

In a news release, Stephanie Higginson called on voters to take careful note of Neufeld’s behaviour

School District 27 announced the first confirmed case of COVID-19 this week (Nov. 23) at Lake City Secondary School Williams Lake campus. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Entire gym class at northern B.C. high school isolating after confirmed COVID case

Contact tracing by Interior Health led to the quarantine

Most Read