Worker shortage causes Pella group home to close

Now hiring
Now hiring(WRDW)
Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 7:49 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PELLA, Iowa (KCCI) - The worker shortage is causing pain for a Pella family. They just learned their son’s group home must close because their provider can’t find support staff to work there.

And that’s bad news for JR Van Vark. He has been washing dishes at Pella High School since he was a student — more than 25 years ago. It’s a job that he loves and that easily accommodates his autism and learning disabilities.

“On some days it can be a little hectic. But other times not so much,” Van Vark said.

But his life is in for a big change. He recently moved into a Pella group home with three other men to spend more time on his own, away from his parents.

“We would hate to see him have to move out of town. Our concern is for him,” said JR’s father, Greg Van Vark.

Greg got the shock of his life a few weeks ago when his son’s group home announced it was closing.

“We want a stable environment for JR, and we thought we had that,” Greg said.

Christian Opportunity Center operates several group homes in Central Iowa. And they suffer with a major problem. They can’t find support staff to work in the homes. That means closing the doors to the Pella home.

“We hate doing it, because this is what we do,” said Christian Opportunity Center Executive Director John Eilers.

EiIers says he regrets telling families about the shutdown of one of their homes. He says he has 50 job openings, so cutting back is the only option.

“This is far more critical than we’ve ever experienced before, and it’s not just us. Other organizations like us are having the same struggles,” Eilers added.

The Van Varks say JR may have to return to their home to live. But they’re in their 70s and worry about their son’s future. Especially if he has to move to another group home out of town.

“It would be devastating to him if he had to live somewhere else and not be a part of the community for 43 years,” Greg said.

Health care leaders say the question is where are the workers and when will they come back? That is still unknown.

Copyright 2021 KYOU. All rights reserved.