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Day support activities program reopening March 1

A day support activities program through Ashland Supportive Housing and Community Outreach is slated to reopen March 1 after a yearlong hiatus due to COVID-19.

The nonprofit has operated for nearly 40 years providing support services and housing for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Last year’s intention with the day support activities program was to offer a place for Ashland Supportive Housing residents and community members with disabilities to participate in skill-driven activities, said Shayla Cordeiro, day support activities program director. The program was open less than a month when COVID-19 arrived in the U.S., and mandatory closures spurred cancellations throughout care and support centers.

In 2021, the skill-driven approach remains the same, with the traditional COVID-era twist. Virtual classes for community members and small in-person group meetings for Ashland Supportive Housing residents of the same household will include health and wellness activities like chair yoga, stress management, journaling, arts and crafts and social skill-building games.

“We’re hoping if the majority of the community gets vaccinated, that the restrictions can loosen up and we can start to see people in person again when it’s safe to do so,” Cordeiro said.

In the meantime, a free, four-week session of the day support activities program will include activities at the Ashland Supportive Housing Center rotated through residential home groups and two days per week dedicated to Zoom courses for community members, she said.

Cordeiro, a member of a regional day support activities committee, said peers in the field have found that virtual offerings often suit complex health care schedules and transportation complications for people with disabilities.

“It was really hard seeing the people that we support struggling over this past year with not only understanding what COVID is and how it is affecting the world, but then their routines just stopping with really no replacements for quite some time,” Cordeiro said.

Executive Director Sue Crader said day support activities help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities learn to safely navigate their community, from opening a bank account to learning how to initiate conversation with a stranger.

Residents have retained the autonomy to choose when they want to go out into the community, but were somewhat dissuaded by caregivers maintaining a sense of lockdown in the interest of safety, Crader said.

“Our residents and people with disabilities have been really cooped up along with everybody else during this pandemic,” she said. “But it’s harder for them because we can make those choices to go out, to remain safe or to not remain safe, whereas our residents or people living with family may not have had the same ability to choose.”

Social connection is mostly limited to caregivers and housemates within one home — a far cry from the parties, barbecues, fitness routines and social activities customary to residents’ schedules pre-pandemic, she said.

Still, Crader is quick to praise the Ashland Supportive Housing staff for navigating protective protocols and thinking creatively to keep residents engaged both indoors and outdoors.

For Lindley House assistant manager Dan Collins, his first year with Ashland Supportive Housing was full of unexpected turns, from evacuating the home brushed by the edge of the Almeda fire in 15 minutes to reviewing individualized COVID-19 protection plans each time a resident leaves the house.

Ashland Supportive Housing received funding to install air scrubbers in residential HVAC systems, which were in place prior to the toxic smoke event of last fall, Crader said.

Most residents and staff members have received their first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine and are scheduled for their second, she said.

The day support activities program is designed to start with Ashland Supportive Housing residents and work up to inter-household and community activities when possible.

“What we’re hoping for with reopening is to start expanding people’s worlds again,” Crader said.

Program Director Stephanie Kwiatkowski said as many residents are also in high-risk categories for the novel coronavirus, engaging in meaningful social connections can be a challenge. Some people with disabilities find virtual connections confusing or simply not fulfilling, she said.

“That has been one of the hardest things to watch is people who already struggled to be involved and accepted in their communities losing that even more,” Kwiatkowski said.

Even during a 36-hour shift with a face mask on, staff members bring enthusiasm to spend time outside and try activities in the home, which has been largely well received by residents who organized their own at-home salon day or reaped the produce of their first vegetable garden this year, she said.

Kwiatkowski said as the pandemic drags on, she often thinks of the people in the community with intellectual or developmental disabilities at home with guardians in need of respite — eagerly awaiting the moment she can offer full services again.

Those interested in accessing the day support activities program starting March 1 can email ashinc@ashlandoregon.org for more information.

Contact Ashland Tidings reporter Allayana Darrow at adarrow@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497 and follow her on Twitter @AllayanaD.

Photo courtesy of Sue Crader Homer James Ward, a client of Ashland Supportive Housing and Community Outreach, enjoys a day outside.