Some neighbours say a care home near Smiths Falls, Ont., for people with disabilities is in disgraceful condition
The Rideau Regional Centre used to be Canada’s largest residential facility for people with disabilities, housing thousands of people, including children who sometimes lived there for decades.
That facility was shut down in 2009 after the province decided residents would be better off integrating into the outside world, causing some to move into the nearby Shardon Manor, located just outside of Smiths Falls in Montague Township.
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"I know there have been over the years people living there who had been residents of Rideau Regional Centre," said Bill Bill Dobson, warden of Lanark County and a former teacher at the Rideau Regional Centre.
"I think in some cases there may not have been anywhere else for them to live so that place was chosen for them."
That building, privately owned but licensed by the provincial health ministry, is old, shabby and partially demolished after a failed investment opportunity by Ottawa developer Tom Assaly.
"To me it's sort of like an abandonment, it's just, ‘We have to get rid of them. We have to put them somewhere,'"said Kathleen Fisher, who looked after children at the centre for 25 years.
‘Disgrace for the neighbourhood’
CBC News cameras recently weren’t allowed inside the building, but iPhone footage shot about a month earlier showed an abandoned construction area partially filled with water and surrounded by an old fence.
Dimly-lit hallways and a bathroom with a loose grab rail could also be seen.
Assaly had planned to turn the building into a high-end retirement complex, but that idea failed and the building is now in receivership.
Fritz Schmeisser said the state of Shardon Manor has been a sore point for he and others in the area for years, with a history of its septic tank overflowing into nearby ditches.
"It is a disgrace for the neighbourhood, in my view," he said.
The receivership company managing the building wouldn’t say if the septic system had ever been upgraded.
Building safe, but ‘should be fixed up’
Some building repairs are underway, with pools of water filled in, a crumbling outside wall fixed and basement sump pumps replaced.
The province said it does have health and safety standards for facilities such as Shardon Manor, but ongoing monitoring is left to local agencies and mental health groups.
Dobson said the municipality has recently inspected the facility and declared it safe, but his view is that it’s run-down and far from ideal.
"I feel it would probably be better if there was a different place for them to live where they would have the amenities of the small town or city," he said. "I feel it is a building that should be fixed up and maintained."
As for the Rideau Regional Centre, it's being turned into a high-end apartment complex.
Not known how many ex-Rideau Regional Centre residents are there
Nearby residents said there are around 30 people living at Shardon Manor.
It’s unclear how many come from the former Rideau Regional Centre, as those running the building refused to talk and threatened to call police when CBC News asked for comment.
Some residents are sent there by various mental health services, such as the Royal Ottawa.
Many receive government support and some are simply too poor to live elsewhere.