Meet BCause Box Charity Partner: Community Living Victoria

Meet BCause Box Charity Partner: Community Living Victoria

Can You Tell Us About Community Living Victoria?

Community Living Victoria (CLV) was established in 1955 by a group of parents who said no to institutions. Back then, there weren’t a lot of community activities and resources available for people with intellectual disabilities in the community. Today, CLV is the largest nonprofit service provider on Vancouver Island. We offer a variety of supports and work to support people with intellectual disabilities together with their families, support networks, and community by promoting full citizenship.  

We offer a variety of living arrangements including 17 community homes that offer 24/7 support. We have a supported independent living program where people live independently throughout the community and receive scheduled times of support to meet their disability-related needs. We also have an apartment program where people live in their own rental suites within an apartment building and we have staff who are available to support the individuals to live as independently as possible. Our Home Share program enables individuals to live in a family home and we have contracts in place with the home share providers to support the individuals to be fully included in the family unit or in some cases individuals might live in a suite within the home. Our Family Support program supports families to access resources, and navigate systems so that they can obtain the support and services they require. A lot of families have children and youth with special needs and need assistance advocating for support like making sure they’ve got education assistance time in school and navigating challenging systems and finding adequate resources. Our parent support program supports parents with intellectual disabilities with all the joys and trials of raising their children. Many of the individuals and families we support live close to or below the poverty line and struggle with food insecurity.  A lot of our fundraising efforts go to individuals to make sure they’ve got food on the table which makes things a little bit easier for them financially.. 

We have an employment services program where we support individuals to obtain and maintain employment throughout the Victoria area.  We are fortunate to work with a variety of inclusive employers who have realized the benefits of hiring an individual with an intellectual disability. A lot of the employers we work with say that hiring someone with an intellectual disability tends to improve their workplace culture, and people tend to stay in their jobs for long periods. Any employer knows that recruitment and retention is really difficult these days so I encourage anyone interested in supporting and hiring a person with intellectual disabilities to visit our website, learn more about our services and programs, and contact our Employment Services Coordinator.

Tell Us About Yourself and Community Living Victoria.

My name is Mike Jensen and I am the Executive Director of Community Living Victoria. I’ve been fortunate to work for CLV for the past 25 years and have been in my current role for the past year. 

I was introduced to community living services back in the early 90s when people were moving out of institutions into various community living arrangements. 

I was a psychiatric nursing student and my first practicum was working in a group home for people with intellectual disabilities who had recently moved out of Woodlands, a large institution on the Main Land. I instantly fell in love with the whole concept of community living and supporting people to live as independently as possible. I decided to leave psychiatric nursing and started working in various group homes. In the early 90s, there were a lot of group homes opening as the institutions were closing and so I was very fortunate to become a permanent worker then quickly a supervisor in one of those group homes early on in my career and I have stayed in this field for over 30 years. It has been a rewarding career and I am so fortunate to be able to work with so many wonderful people and help them to realize their dreams and live as independently as possible.

What Are The Current Events At Community Living Victoria?

One of the things we’re very excited about is our Youth Impact Employment Project. It’s supporting youth who are between the ages of 13 and 19 and helping them learn the values and skills involved in employment, helping them with job readiness, and helping them spend some time with employers out in the community. The intention is that they will be ready for employment after they graduate from high school. We are partnering with other service providers on the mainland and we’ve received a grant that we are sharing together. We are really excited that we are going to be able to carry on with this program.  This will be our third year. We supported 12 youth through this last summer and we are looking forward to doing that again in the coming weeks.

Why Is Fundraising Important To Community Living Victoria?

Fundraising is something we’re very passionate about. We receive a lot of our funding from Community Living British Columbia which is our core funding for staffing and program costs. But in order to be able to promote full inclusivity for the people we support, we have a lot of fundraising efforts we do ourselves. We have the Community Living Foundation, and the sole purpose is to raise the profile of CLV and raise funds for CLV. Some of the events we have coming up include a concert in November and a car show on the grounds of our property,  we are planning a comedy night where one of the people we support will be doing his comedy act which should be exciting.

What’s The Biggest Challenge Community Living Victoria Faces?

We are an accredited organization and are preparing for our 9th survey this spring.  This is a big undertaking and all of the staff teams are currently working hard to prepare evidence for the surveyors.  We are confident that we will succeed in obtaining another 3-year award and it is a great opportunity for us to showcase all the great work we do within the Community. 

CLV supports a variety of people who access the community and live with full citizenship—access to education, affordable housing, food, all of the things that everybody else within the typical population enjoys and participates in. We really work hard to ensure that the people we support have all the same access. 

This means we have a lot of accountability and criteria that we are responsible to meet. Providing support and training is huge for us. We were very fortunate to have received a grant through the Canadian Red Cross Rapid Relief Fund to help us boost our training efforts for new employees to ensure that they have a good grasp of CLV's vision which is we really push to ensure that our culture, vision, and values are distilled in everything that we do. And with everything that we do and every decision we make, the people we support are at the forefront of our minds. 

How Does Food Insecurity Affect Your Community?

A lot of the people we support have difficulty making ends meet, often living close to the poverty line, and food insecurity is a very real thing for many of them. A lot of our fundraising efforts goes towards grocery gift cards and food hampers. Some of the families we support who are raising children with intellectual disabilities find it difficult to work full-time especially if they might be a single parent. So having support through CLV as far as grocery gift cards is a huge relief to many families.

Do You Have Any Favourite Memories Of Your Time At Community Living Victoria?

It would be impossible for me to think of just one memory that I have but what I really love about this organization is the true sense of family at CLV.  We are a HUGE family. Some of the things I cherish are the relationships—with the people that we support, the staff, and with the many community partners and supporters.

BCause is grateful to Community Living Victoria and Mike Jensen for taking the time to share their story with us. We are very excited to have them join our BCause Box Charity Partners where 5% from every CLV BCause Box is donated to Community Living Victoria. Select an Individual or Family sized BCause Box and subscribe to start supporting Community Living Victoria today.