How snow days affect services at Caledon Community Services

Written by: Monty Laskin

SNOW DAY

How snow days affect services at Caledon Community Services. – John Rennison/The Hamilton Spectator

Snow day. What comes to mind? For some, it’s akin to the best unexpected holiday imaginable. Full disclosure: it was fantastic staying warm at home, in flannel, drinking tea, getting some work done while appreciating the stillness of the community around me.

In the business of health, community and employment services, snow days take on a whole different meaning. We’ve been thinking a lot about them here at Caledon Community Services in the last couple weeks.

I’ve been at the helm of this storied community organization since 2006 and our recent facilities’ closure, first a half-day and then a full day, was the first time I’ve ever agreed to close our doors. But there’s a caveat here. Some doors are never allowed to be closed at CCS, a commitment we take to heart. While the interests of safety are always paramount, there’s apparently an exception to that.

Snow days are definitely not all fun and flannel. They have a cost. Families have different capacities to adapt on short notice with such things as child care and work responsibilities. Seniors living alone can be dramatically affected. Some of our own staff with teenagers in their graduating year have exams cancelled. Commercial activities close down, our local economy is hurt.

CCS tries to strike a balance between people’s wishes and needs. Services, such as transportation to medical appointments, in-home services for our community’s seniors and our transitional care centre, a halfway stay between hospital and home, are not wishful things. They are absolutely necessary and they simply can’t shut down for the day.

Our necessary services were maintained when we closed our doors. Our professional drivers and personal support workers were at their posts while most of us stayed home and off the icy roads. The aftermath of all of this is that discussions are now underway to plan for the day when we won’t be able to get a client to a dialysis appointment, a time when perhaps snow days pile up on one another. Perhaps this won’t be about our ability to field our buses but the municipality’s ability to quickly clear the after-effects of treacherous weather events.

Watch old westerns? Remember the Pony Express? “Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Not so today. During two of the most recent snow days, Canada Post cancelled delivery. We’re foolish if we aren’t looking at this very carefully. Both the frequency and the severity.

I’m not looking at this through the eyes of climate change, although there’s likely no more informed a lens. I look at snow days through the lens of real-time human impacts. Despite comfy flannel and the enjoyment it brings, a snow day’s potential for serious harm shouts out at us. We’re working to balance the joy of an unexpected day of rest with the perils of people not receiving the attention they need during a difficult time. Thankfully, it’s made much easier by a community that always mobilizes in difficult times.

Monty Laskin is the CEO of Caledon Community Services. Reach him at media@ccs4u.org.

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