The Hayes Street community home in Norwich is a large family home, similar in style to other neighborhood homes, shared by six residents. Joelle is one of the first to greet anyone entering the house and will likely compliment you on what you are wearing. Rocky is the most outgoing member of the household, and her boisterous attitude catches on as she makes her way around the house, greeting newcomers. Her voice can be heard around the house, yet she is conscious of everyone in the room, ensuring they are included in whatever is happening. Meanwhile, Rachel is certain to put a smile on your face as she makes everyone feel welcome in the home with her jubilant attitude. Most residents welcome guests, while others spend time in their rooms working on craft activities, watching TV, or listening to music.
Lately, the days have been long for the people living here, and the staff members. Low staff numbers have meant that people like Joelle, Rocky, and Rachel do not have the same opportunity they had in the past to get out and engage with their friends or community through volunteer work or attending events. These activities have been important to the lives of these women, who rely on direct support to get them out of the house daily so they can do the things they enjoy most. These activities also help them to build and maintain social skills and connections within Norwich and the surrounding towns. Still, here, where residents and staff have built lasting relationships with neighbors, the people of the surrounding communities step in to give a hand whenever and wherever they can. This includes bringing coffee by in the morning for DSPs who have recently been too busy to prepare it and dropping in for movie nights in the backyard.
In the past, when staff levels were regular, residents enjoyed volunteering in their community, attending social events, taking day trips to neighboring towns, and taking overnight trips to the Adirondacks. Many of the residents at Hayes Street are independent in their daily activities and attend day hab but require support during meals and outings. Day habilitation direct support professionals Bonnie Bryant (DHWOW) and Bethany Nichols share daily duties like cooking, cleaning, and preparing residents for their day (and their night) and watch over the house from one of the communal areas so that they are more easily accessible to everyone in the house. Bonnie and Bethany miss the community connections and day trips as well, and they are hopeful that staff levels will get back to normal so that everyone here can resume the things they enjoy most.
The Broad Street Community Home is also a large family home in Norwich with a beautiful backyard and raised garden beds. In the late afternoon, the house is quiet as residents hang out in their rooms watching TV or just taking it easy after an early afternoon of day hab activities. Residents at Broad Street need some assistance for mobility and medical attention throughout the day. Jewel, one of the residents of Broad St., spends most of her days at the nearby Norwich day hab. Lately, she is actively working on learning the math skills she needs to keep a budget for spending and saving for the things she wants. Her most recent goal, however, is to learn to crochet. She is pursuing this goal with the support of Norwich day habilitation DSP Mindy Whitmore. Mindy currently spends most of her time at the Broad Street community home and is eager to see more staff in the house so that activities like crafts can be done with more residents. Right now, there are too few staff members, and it is not possible for Mindy to juggle cooking for the house and give lessons in crochet to Jewel. Alternatively, with more staff, regular day hab activities can resume, and more residents can go there to participate in them.
Direct support professional Kyra Manley leads a tour of the raised beds in the garden, pointing out the various tomato and pepper plants, and the assortment of squash. Kyra mentions that “Everyone here loves spaghetti squash,” as she points it out in the garden. Among the other vegetables are cucumber plants and string beans. Staff and residents at the home enjoy caring for the garden and the vegetables they plant. As the season progresses and the vegetables ripen, residents pick their favorite for the evening meal cooked by a staff member. Kyra mentions that the favorite dish at the house is eggplant parmesan; tonight, however, Mindy Whitmore, the de facto cook at the house, is putting together chicken burritos. The smell of cooking fills the home and some residents—most of whom were previously relaxing in their rooms—wander into the kitchen to inquire about tonight’s dinner and to take a seat at the dining table. Mindy turns to the kitchen window and proclaims her current position “really doesn’t feel like work!”
From cooking to cleaning, taking residents to day hab, or going out on day trips, staff of the community homes of Norwich work to make each day a little bit easier. The community homes in Norwich are grateful to their neighbors for their small acts of kindness because they are often a bright spot in the day. To make every day easier for the staff and for residents to get back out into the community, rather than waiting for the community to come to them, they need YOUR help! Positions are open now for direct support professionals and residential counselors, as well as assistant management positions and day habilitation in the Norwich region.
“It is not just a workplace. It is a lifestyle. There are many opportunities to grow and learn in your career [at Springbrook].”
– Kendra Hunsinger, Assistant Residential Manager at Hayes community home