Group home staffers called "front line heroes"

Coronavirus outbreak brings new challenge
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Posted at 5:45 PM, Apr 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-18 14:53:23-04

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — For those living with developmental disabilities, the coronavirus outbreak brings new challenges.

7 Eyewitness News senior reporter Eileen Buckley give us a virtual look at how People Incorporated staffers are helping clients navigate through this new normal.

Inside an Elwmood Village group home, a client says hello.

“How you doing?” Buckley asks. “Good,” responded People Inc. client.

There are seven adults living in this group home in Buffalo’s Elmwood Village.

Adaia Wheeler used FaceTime to bring us inside where she is the senior residential supervisor.

Wheeler gave us a glimpse of how they're coping with the pandemic lock down.

“It’s been interesting actually. Definitely an adjustment,” Wheeler remarked. “We got Lego’s, car building kits, we've gotten a scavenger hunt. We have a karaoke microphone, which is interesting.”

All kinds of games are stacked up to keep clients busy during COVID.

Residents have a range of development disabilities, but they're not use to staying home. They attend day programs, work and join activities.

“They don't quite understand social distancing. Why we're not going to day program every day, why they can't walk down to Tim Horton's for coffee,” explained Rhonda Frederick, president & CEO, People Inc., chair, Development Disabilities alliance of Western New York (DDAWNY).

Nearly 700 people are in group homes and staying with family during the lock down.

Frederick is looking to the federal stimulus and the Cares Act, hoping it will help provide much needed support for larger agencies in this challenging time.

“Those that are larger, we would like to advocate for some of those programs to turn from loans into grants for not for profits,” Frederick noted.

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Inside group home in Buffalo.

But for right now, it is the many staffers the agency is relying on daily, some who have taken on 12-hour shifts.

“Our staff is truly incredible, front line heroes and keeping everybody calm,” Frederick declared.

Wheeler says they're making the best of a difficult time, but admits it's hard to explain COVID-19 to her residents.

“I think it's kind of a scary thing to talk about. You just try to be honest and open, but also recognize that it can be scary,” Wheeler said.

People Incorporated said they are hiring for full, part-time and temporary positions.