'Pure joy' as Manitoba adults with intellectual disabilities allowed to have loved ones over for visits

It's been a tough three months of pandemic isolation for adults with intellectual disabilities who live in group homes and haven't been able to visit with their families, but as of this week many are able to restore that sense of connection.

Indoor visits with one person allowed as of June 15; day programming to resume in July

DASCH supports Manitobans with intellectual disabilities at 59 different locations, along with offering day programming and other services. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

It's been a tough three months of pandemic isolation for adults with intellectual disabilities who live in Manitoba group homes and haven't been able to visit with their families.

But rules have now been relaxed and many are finally able to restore that sense of connection.

Since June 15, adults living in such homes can now have one visitor indoors and can also visit family in their homes, said a spokesperson with Manitoba's Department of Families.

Outdoor visits have been permitted in some cases since May 6, but now up to two visitors may attend at the same time.

Some have already taken advantage and are having family inside for a visit for the first time in months, says the CEO of Direct Action in Support of Community Homes Inc.

"Pure joy and happiness and the best news we've been able to deliver in a long long time," said DASCH's Karen Fonseth.

Karen Fonseth is CEO of DASCH. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

DASCH runs group day programming and provides care and housing for adults with intellectual disabilities at 59 locations in Winnipeg, among other services.

'It's been tough'

Fonseth said when the pandemic closures took effect in March, the interruptions to daily routines proved challenging to many clients.

Many depend on a reliable schedule for a sense of regularity, she said, and some clients didn't fully comprehend why they were no longer able to see their friends at day programming events or have family over.

"It's been a tough number of months for all the individuals, all the families, staff," said Fonseth.

"We've done our best to keep everyone busy and happy, but ... it's challenging for any of us let alone for individuals who might not really understand."

Group homes will still have to work out the logistics of the visits, but they're likely to have a positive impact quickly.

Rosalie Best is accessibility services co-ordinator with the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities. (Submitted by Rosalie Best)

"Being able to receive visitors again after three or four months is going to be wonderful for those who are in group homes that are not living with their families or friends," said Rosalie Best, accessibility services co-ordinator for the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities.

"I do think that these programs are going to work really hard to get that into place for their tenants, because it's been such a long time. They're going to have to figure out the social distancing."

Still encouraging outdoor visits

Fonseth said DASCH is still encouraging families to meet with their loved ones outside. So is the province's Community Living disAbility Services program.

Its visiting guidelines also state no one who has COVID-19, or is currently being tested, is allowed to visit the group homes.

The same goes for anyone with symptoms of any kind, anyone who has travelled outside Manitoba in the past two weeks, or someone told to self-isolate due to a possible exposure to a positive case.

Those who run group homes have been told to seek medical advice before arranging in-person visits with residents who may be at higher risk.

Day programs restart in July

Another change on the horizon that many are looking forward to is the resumption of group day programming services.

Those will begin operating again gradually starting next month, said a provincial spokesperson.

In the past, Best said many Manitobans with disabilities felt forgotten during the pandemic. Restoring day programs may help change that.

"It's going to be incredibly positive for people who finally get to see their friends again and get to resume programs helping them to live independently, but also helping them to develop as people," she said.

WATCH | Indoor visits now allowed at group homes for adults with intellectual disabilities:

Indoor visits now allowed at group homes for adults with intellectual disabilities

3 years ago
Duration 1:38
Featured VideoSince June 15, adults with intellectual disabilities may have one visitor over for an indoors visit.


Bryce Hoye


Bryce Hoye is a multi-platform journalist covering news, science, justice, health, 2SLGBTQ issues and other community stories. He has a background in wildlife biology and occasionally works for CBC's Quirks & Quarks and Front Burner. He is also Prairie rep for outCBC. He has won a national Radio Television Digital News Association award for a 2017 feature on the history of the fur trade, and a 2023 Prairie region award for an audio documentary about a Chinese-Canadian father passing down his love for hockey to the next generation of Asian Canadians.