Not your average car wash crew

Disabled adults develop life skills in Oak Bay, one police cruiser at a time

Tommy

It’s noon on a bright Sunday in December, and while many people were out Christmas shopping or sitting on the couch watching football, Andrew and Tommy are hard at work.

Using a long-handled brush, Andrew methodically scrubs the body of an Oak Bay police cruiser. Following closely behind, Tommy uses a hose to rinse the vehicle clean of soap. But the job’s not quite done. Grabbing a bottle of glass cleaner, Andrew opens the car’s doors and wipes down the interior of each window.

One down, three to go.

Andrew and Tommy visit Oak Bay police headquarters every other weekend to wash and detail the department’s fleet. “I mostly do the hose, the rinsing,” says Tommy confidently.

The men are clients of the Community Inclusion Roads program. Community Inclusion is a private company contracted by Community Living B.C. that provides life-skills training and employment opportunities to adults with developmental disabilities.

The program’s employment specialist, Judith Smith, stands to one side watching the men work. She is impressed with the system the pair have established.

“It’s been really good for both of them,” she says. “They’ve both learned how to make a friendship, and who’s doing what. They worked that out themselves. That’s terrific co-operation.”

Smith first approached the police a little over a year ago with the proposal that Roads program clients clean cop cars for the same rate as the department would pay at a commercial car wash, and they’ve been more than happy with the results.

“It’s been working out really, really good,” says Deputy Chief Kent Thom. “They’re extremely thorough, very meticulous in everything they do, and I think I can safely say our cars have never been cleaner.”

For Andrew, who lives in a Saanich group home, the job is one of four he has thanks to the program. Due to a hearing disability, his primary method of communication is through a hardcover journal, in which he exchanges written messages with his employers.

“Thanks for all your hard work and dedication, and have a Merry Christmas!” reads one entry.

In addition to providing a source of income, such jobs also help program clients develop valuable life skills, including money management, nutrition, computer use – even yoga.

Tommy and Andrew take public transit to work – Andrew proudly shows off a dog-eared bus schedule – and the pair have developed their communication skills in dealing with the officers who are on duty when they arrive. Smith says Tommy in particular was “very shy” when they began.

“I would show up for the first four or five weeks with them, and work with them, and talk to the police for them,” Smith says. “And I’d go, ‘Tommy, you’re going to have to do this.’

“It’s taught him to speak up.”

An hour after starting, four police cruisers are sparkling and the cleaning equipment has been neatly piled by the station’s back door. Smith produces a Christmas card, in which she has Andrew and Tommy write well-wishes and messages of gratitude to the police department.

Showing how far they’ve come in the year since they started, the pair knock on the door and shake hands with the officers who emerge.

“Merry Christmas,” says Tommy. “Thank you for the job.”

editor@oakbaynews.com

Just Posted

Access: A day in the life using a wheelchair in Victoria

Black Press Media teamed up with the Victoria Disability Resource Centre to learn about barriers

Popular food truck to open restaurant on Oak Bay Avenue

Dead Beetz Burgers adds brick-and-mortar restaurant

Victoria retirement community celebrates 403 years of life

Four women over 100 celebrate at The Wellesley

CRD aims to reduce solid waste going to Hartland Landfill by a third by 2030

District launches public engagement campaign for waste reduction strategies

18-year-old man stabbed near Langford bus exchange

The West Shore RCMP is looking for witnesses to the Oct. 11 incident

VIDEO: Explosion, fire sends woman running from Saanich home

Heavy smoke in the area, crews on scene

Zantac, the over-the-counter heartburn drug, pulled in Canada, U.S.

Health Canada also investigates possible carcinogen in some ranitidine drugs

B.C. public safety minister says cannabis edibles not in stores til January

Mike Farnworth says he wants regional issues considered when it comes to licensing

POLL: Do you think the day of the federal election should be a statutory holiday?

Increasing voter turnout has long been a goal of officials across the… Continue reading

Greta Thunberg calls for climate action in Alberta, but doesn’t talk oilsands

Swedish teen was met with some oil and gas industry supporters who came in a truck convoy

Scheer denies spreading ‘misinformation’ in predicting unannounced Liberal taxes

Conservative leader had claimed that a potential NDP-Liberal coalition could lead to a hike in GST

Chilliwack man pleads guilty in crash that killed pregnant woman

Frank Tessman charged under Motor Vehicle Act for accident that killed Kelowna school teacher

Kawhi Leonard, former Toronto Raptor, welcomed back to Vancouver at pre-season game

Fans go wild at pre-season game between L.A. Clippers and Dallas Mavericks at Rogers Arena

Greens and NDP go head to head on West Coast; Scheer takes fight to Bernier

Trudeau turns focus to key ridings outside Toronto after two days in Quebec

Most Read