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Community Living Services cater to consumers on many levels

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The Arc of San Diego provides a wealth of programs and services to disabled individuals requiring all levels of care, thus ensuring that needs are met.

One noteworthy program — Community Living Services (CLS) — is designed to give support to individuals, also called consumers, who need to be cared for 24 hours a day, as well as for those who live alone and simply need help with routine tasks.

“Community Living Services is more about where and how someone lives,” said Susan Rehm, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and director of Community Living Services.

Respite Services is one facet of CLS and provides in-home and out-of-home care to individuals so that their families can take time to run errands, spend time together or catch up on other activities. Respite House is available to up to four consumers each weekend. Here, consumers will receive a high standard of care and enjoy recreational activities.

“We gear the staffing according to the four people that will be coming as guests that weekend,” Rehm said.

Arc offers 13 group homes under the CLS umbrella, where up to six residents in need of intermediate care live as a family unit. Residents receive food, shelter, active treatment and involvement in a day program.

“Family-type bonds start developing,” said Pat Friedman, director of ICF/DD-H intermediate care facility for the developmentally disabled habilitative operations. “Consumers begin looking out for each other like brothers and sisters.”

One consumer has been a group home resident for 18 years. After being all but abandoned at a hospital by her family in the early 1980s, she came to Arc and the other residents of her group home are now her family.

Perhaps even more astonishing is the story of another consumer — Lashanza — and her transformation from a timid, almost reclusive woman to a vivid, loving individual. Lashanza, who has no active family involvement, moved into one of The Arc’s group homes in the early 1980s as well, after spending time in a state mental hospital. When she came to The Arc, she engaged in self-injurious behavior and could not take control of her own hygiene or even dress herself. Those who knew her then might now find it difficult to recognize her. She has become a true socialite who enjoys participating in the Special Olympics, visiting coffee shops and doing work around the house. She now looks forward to an upcoming trip to Disneyland by train with her housemates.

Fortunately, not each story begins this devastatingly. Some relatives are more active in the lives of consumers, bringing holiday meals to the entire house and celebrating their lives. Like their housemates, these family members are an integral part of each consumer’s world.

Group homes are located in Pacific Beach, Kearny Mesa, Lemon Grove, La Mesa, Santee, National City and Chula Vista.

The saying goes something like this: “Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will eat always.” Because the level of independence for each consumer varies, Arc’s goal is not to do everything for every consumer. Some consumers live with more autonomy and require only nominal assistance. These individuals benefit from Independent Living Services (ILS) — a transitional Community Living Service. ILS currently serves more than 100 consumers by providing them with an Independent Living Professional to advance their knowledge of life skills so that they can live on their own safely and successfully.

“Our goal is to assign a staff [member] to work one-on-one with that consumer to help them be as independent as they can,” said Ellis Dillon, operations administrator for Independent Living Services.

The result? Many consumers learn to search for housing, manage money, prepare meals and hone vital parenting skills, no longer requiring instruction from The Arc of San Diego.

Consumers also are provided assistance in publishing their own articles in a newsletter read by the staff and other consumers called “Choices.” But Arc is always available to continue to advocate for these consumers should the need arise.

To say that these services help consumers physically and mentally is an understatement. But along with the learning and hard work comes the opportunity for unbridled fun, and program director Lance Urabe and the dedicated folks working with PALS (Personal and Leisure Services) ensure that smiles abound.

PALS includes camping opportunities for children at Camp-A-Little and adults at Camp-A-Lot. Another component of PALS is the Travel and Leisure program where consumers enjoy everything from local events to trips to Las Vegas and Hawaii.

“You go from working with someone to wanting to see the person succeed in everything,” said Lin Taylor, director of Camp-A-Little and Camp-A-Lot and department director for PALS. “It’s not just your job anymore. The person becomes a whole, fully rounded individual that has wants and needs and dreams and everything else.”

The Arc of San Diego fosters optimal care for consumers, whether they need a great deal of help or minimal guidance, helping them shine like the stars they are.

For more information about Community Living Services, call Susan Rehm at (619) 685-1175, ext. 242.

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