Caregivers at Connecticut group homes are on strike, and some of the people they have cared for are already feeling the impact.
Workers at Sunrise Group Home and Day Programs have been striking this week. They want higher wages, affordable health insurance, and a pension, according to the New England Health Care Employees Union.
One employee said she makes $17.50 an hour, and caregivers have not had a pay increase in 15 years.
Sunrise released a statement Tuesday, saying the organization is committed to reaching a contract that is sustainable and gives employees the wage increases and benefits they deserve. Sunrise said they requested additional funding for health care and retirement from the state and are awaiting decisions.
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The organization operates 28 group homes and day programs, serving 160 people across Connecticut. Employees tell us they stay at their jobs because they care about the people they are helping and see them like family.
Yet the families of the residents in Sunrise group homes tell us they are really feeling the brunt of this situation. One person impacted is Bernard Scott.
"This was the room Tim grew up in,” Scott said, looking around a bedroom in this Wethersfield home. The house is filled with memories
"Tim's nickname was 'The Tiger,' hence the tiger picture down there,” Scott said.
However, with his kids now gone, and his wife and son Tim both in group homes, life is quiet.
"I try not to think too much about some of these things,” Scott said.
He mourns the days when his son Tim was a child, before he became disabled as a boy, Scott said, from vaccines. It caused Tim to struggle with mental disabilities and seizures, and require a wheelchair.
"I have a stairlift over there that was installed for him," Scott said.
Now Scott uses the chair since Tim no longer lives in the house
"It just got to the point where neither myself or my wife could take care of him at home anymore,” he said
Tim moved into a Sunrise group home at age 39. He is now 55 and has been living at a home with three other residents and his caregivers in Glastonbury.
Two days ago, Tim’s routine was uprooted. He was moved to a facility in Hartford on Monday because of the strike.
"It is not a group home, it was never constructed or made for a group home, so they've had to make modifications for that,” Scott said. “That's not right. That's not acceptable."
Scott now carries the extra concern about how his son is faring with the move.
"He's not thrilled with going up there, primarily because it's unusual,” he said.
Since he is grateful for the care Tim has received over the years, Scott supports those out on the picket lines.
“These are not high-paying jobs. Emotionally and physically, they're very, very difficult jobs. Their demands are more, more than reasonable,” he said.
After all he has endured as a father, putting his son in a group home, Scott just hopes Tim will get resettled at the place he calls home.
"He has his own room in a group home, with his own TV and his own tablet that he could play games on and do whatever he wanted to do,” Scott said. "I hope that they resolve this quickly and he is back to his own room, with the people he knows and is familiar with."
Scott said he is not alone. He knows so many other families that are dealing with the same concerns he faces.
He wants to see the state invest in Connecticut’s group homes so that organizations like Sunrise can afford to provide more benefits and pay to their employees.
“The state has control over the purse strings,” Scott said. “If they don’t give money to Sunrise, Sunrise can’t give money to their employees. So it was very frustrating to find out that apparently, just nobody cares.”