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

 

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

William Henry Rawlison was last seen on Sunday, June 20, 2021. (Contributed photo)
Police looking for missing White Rock senior

William Rawlison, last seen on June 20, may be driving to Kamloops

Natalie Brown and Colten Wilke star in the feature film Thunderbird, co-produced by South Surrey-raised Michael Morrison and released this month in Canada, the U.S and the U.K. (Contributed photo)
South Surrey-raised producer helps bring ‘Thunderbird’ to the screen

Michael Morrison guides B.C.-shot thriller with First Nations connection

File photo
Surrey Board of Trade vows ‘a lot of noise’ will be made about tax increases

Huberman calls for comprehensive tax review at all levels of government

2019 Red Serge Gala guests try their luck at roulette. (Simon Lau photo)
High hopes for in-person Red Serge Gala on Semiahmoo Peninsula

28th fundraiser for community safety programs set for Oct. 23 return

TEASER PHOTO ONLY - Hillcrest Drive-In's sign at the end its run in Surrey, in a photo uploaded to cinematreasures.org by hermangotlieb.
SURREY NOW & THEN: The city’s last drive-in, Hillcrest showed movies for 50 years on site turned shopping mall

‘It was a good memory, being the last drive-in in the Lower Mainland, at the time,’ says former operator Jay Daulat

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Most Read