Group home operators in Nova Scotia say they're not getting enough money from the province, forcing them to shut down or take part-time jobs to pay their bills.

There are 28 private group homes housing 500 people with special needs, often with emotional and mental problems.

Many are struggling to stay open, said Rosemary MacEachern, president of the Residential Care Facility Association of Nova Scotia.

"Many operators within our association have been experiencing great difficulties with meeting financial obligations," she told CBC News.

The operator of the Orchard Home for Special Care in Aylesford is shutting his business down this week, saying he can't afford to stay open. The 14 residents are being moved to other homes around the province.

Five of the residents are heading down the road to Windsor House. It means about $60,000 a year in extra per diems from the province, but the owners aren't celebrating.

"The Department of Community Services' funding formula put him out of business," said Gord Armsworthy, who owns Windsor House with wife Blanche.

"I'm heartbroken," she said.

To keep their group home open, the Armsworthys work three days a week as security guards at the Halifax airport. They say the government has not increased operational payments in 15 years and reduces per diem payments if clients leave.

Even with fewer residents, Gord said group homes still need that money because they have fixed costs.

"You have your staffing, which takes up about anywhere from 70 to 80 per cent of the money," he said. "You have power, heat, lights, insurance."

Three years ago, the province launched a review of what it pays operators. Millie Colbourne, with Community Services, said operators will see more money in the fall.