The Yellowknife Association for Community Living, which has spent more than 50 years supporting NWT residents with disabilities, is now known as Inclusion NWT.
The association has since 1962 provided support for people with disabilities and their families. Lynn Elkin, Inclusion NWT’s executive director, said its new name better reflects what it does.
“Inclusion certainly is what we’re really all about, in all aspects of life,” she said, stating the organization’s belief that every resident has the right to be a part of their community to the maximum extent possible – including at work, play, and at home.
“It breaks our heart when someone is sent south when we feel that there could have been an opportunity to explore some options to keep them closer to family,” said Elkin.
“We think being close to family and community is so important for who all of us are and what choices we make.”
The new name also clarifies the work Inclusion NWT does.
Elkin said the name Yellowknife Association for Community Living had confused people in the past, with some assuming the group was a housing agency.
“Supporting people in their homes is part of what we do, but it isn’t the only thing that we do,” she said.
Services will continue as before, including skills training, community inclusion, services for families and children, supported living, and respite. Employment programs include the Odd Job Squad, created in 2018 to help “under-employed individuals who self-identify with a disability” earn money from one-off or short-term work while searching for more lasting employment.
In any given month, the association says, it works with 100 to 150 people and their families. Funding comes from 24 separate sources, including a range of governments and other organizations.
The name change also sees the association drop Yellowknife from its title and add the NWT, reflecting a territory-wide mandate the group has held since it began. Inclusion NWT is the territorial association under the national Canadian Association for Community Living.
As more efforts are made to help people stay in their home communities rather than seek help in cities, Inclusion NWT says it is trying to respond.
“So working with the school, working with community employment, working with adult learning centres or families,” said Elkin. “How do we help them create structure? Supports that their family member needs? Or access something that they need within the community?”
Terry Kuliktana, a client of the Inclusion NWT supported living service, prepares dinner at home. Angela Gzowski/Inclusion NWT
Often, work in smaller communities involves ensuring social inclusion once a person gets older and leaves the inclusive education system.
Rather than spend money flying to communities, Elkin said the organization tries to first connect with people when they come to Yellowknife. When the person travels back to their community, support is delivered by phone.
The name change is part of a shift taking place across the country. Associations in Alberta, BC, and Saskatchewan have also changed their names.