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Walter and May: A Love Story (Part 5)

July 25, 2009

Walter’s key support worker, Max, was determined to see him succeed.  Max believed that the key to this success lay in connecting Walter to other people in his new community.  Max befriended neighbours who were supportive of us being in the neighbourhood, finding ways to connect on a personal level.  The Italian grandmother across the lane started giving the guys homemade spaghetti sauce and vegetables from her garden.  Every Wednesday, Max would take Walter to Safeway to do the grocery shopping for the home.  He made a point of finding a cashier who was friendly and welcoming of Walter, and made sure to go through her lineup whenever they shopped. 

Unfortunately, the neighbourhood complaints over the noise continued, to the point that the City of Vancouver contacted the Ministry of Social Services and requested they move Walter to another municipality.  The Ministry was well aware of the challenges we were facing, having amassed a large stack of critical incident reports on Walter, and they believed the time had come to send Walter back to Woodlands.  We resisted.  We couldn’t give up on him.  So instead of sending him back to the institution, we rented a bungalow on a large lot in Richmond, and began planning for Walter to move into his own home where he could move about freely without disturbing anyone.

The move to Richmond alleviated the noise issue, but Walter’s behavior continued to challenge us.  A couple of the core staff who had supported him in Vancouver continued working with him in his new home, which provided some much-needed consistency.  We tried to maintain as many of Walter’s routines as possible, so as to minimize the upheaval in his life.  One of these routines was the weekly grocery shopping at Safeway.  Even after Walter moved to Richmond, his staff would drive him into Vancouver every Wednesday to shop at the same Safeway, so he could maintain his connection with the cashier. 

The cashier’s name was May.  This was the beginning of a love story that would change Walter’s life, and change our thinking about the importance of relationships for ALL people.

To be continued…

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