Jason’s second-floor condominium had become more of an obstacle course than a home. His mobility was restricted by the multiple sclerosis (MS) that attacked his central nervous system. Navigating the condo in a wheelchair was often a dangerous and time-consuming activity, risking injury at every turn. He spent the majority of his time trying to create function in an environment that had none for someone in a wheelchair.
With the amount of time he spent working around his disease, Jason had little time left for himself. His lack of human interaction coupled with the continuous string of worries that occupied his mind – Would anyone hear him if he fell? Would any of his neighbours be around to help him? – made dealing with his MS much more difficult. He was trapped and the only way out was an accessible home. But, with AISH (Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped) as his source of income, the cost would leave him with limited options.
Jason found freedom when he discovered Fourth Dimension, a barrier-free group home through Accessible Housing with supported living and services for learning independent living skills. “There are people around 24/7 so I know I’m taken care of,” he says, adding that, after he moved in, his parents were able to go on a vacation for the first time in 10 years. And he instantly gained a new group of friends. “We share the same struggles and need the same supports. These are my people.”
Not only has Jason had time to build friendships, but he’s been able to work on a PhD in Mathematics as well. “It’s easy to get too involved with a disease like MS, to think about it too much,” he explains. “School allows me to focus on something else. It keeps me sane.”
Being a tenant at Accessible Housing has allowed Jason and others like him to harness their potential.“We want to contribute and this place gives us the tools to do more with our lives,” he says. “Everyone has some sort of challenge but we try to get past it. MS just happens to be mine.”
Lorne lives in a well kept apartment surrounded by plants and the tempting smell of a delicious meal lingering in the air. A talented cook, Lorne spent 15 years delighting Kananaskis with samples of his culinary delights before being unexpectedly diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, a condition that would change his life.
The restaurant that he worked for did everything to support him from providing accommodation in their building to staffing support to make it up and down the stairs. Unfortunately with limited accessibility it soon became apparent that permanent, accessible support was necessary.
Lorne was connected with Accessible Housing and plans were immediately made to provide him with the supports he needed. He now lives on his own in an accessible apartment and remains connected to the community through the resources and activities he accesses through Accessible Housing.
Lorne continues to do the things that he loves – simple things that include spending time in the kitchen preparing meals with his friends.
Accessible Housing helps me grow as a person. They make my life better by giving me a safe place to live and for loving me.
Here at Newbridge, at our home, we have our ups and downs, just like everybody else, but we are growing. We are a family.The staff at Accessible Housing care about me. They listen. They really hear me. They love people. They help people become more independent. They help people become whole.
Everyone needs to be loved and cared for and helped. Accessible Housing gives people a home where they can be loved and grow.
The staff make me feel at home. I have my own big room where I can have my fish and watch my soap operas. I have a place to do my crafts, read, cook and sleep, and a garden where I can grow flowers.
Three years ago I spent three months in rehabilitation and then another eight months just waiting in the hospital for a place I could go to…I wasn’t looking forward to living in a future in which I was institutionalized. Accessible Housing allowed me to escape the medical system and move on with living my life.
At Fourth Dimension our community is really a diverse group of people. We are a collection of very different individuals and what brings us together is the shared need for accessible housing, so it’s an opportunity to interact with a whole mix of people. We have university professors, students, lawyers and an instructor of Native Languages.
We have a range of personalities here and lots of people at different places in their life; we have those who struggle to overcome the issues that they have to face and we have those who are active members of the community. One of the ladies here, Gale, is always doing something! She really models the belief that “life goes on so do what you can”. Another thing about the community here at 4D is that it really is a peer group that encourages you to push your limits so that you can expand and grow further. This is an environment where we do what we can to challenge the limitations we are faced with.
Generally here at 4D we have two types of residents who experience limited mobility, those with spinal cord injury and those with Multiple sclerosis (MS). MS is a progressive disease which means that it will only get worse as time goes on so those residents tend not to leave 4D until they need more intensive care. People with a spinal cord injury can work towards more independent living someday. In fact, I was able to get my room here at 4D because the guy who lived here before me had cerebral palsy and vacated his room because he got to be so independent that he could live on his own! Either way you look at it, the 4D experience is invaluable to the residents here, for many of us there would be few, if any, other real options.
Accessible Housing has made such a huge difference to so many people over the years. Accessible Housing has made it possible for so many people to live, and in many cases, live more independently as a result of the assistance they get here at 4D. In fact, yesterday I was visited by a friend who used to live here and they now live in Inglewood.
The cooking is one of the biggest things that makes 4D feel like home! In a hospital meal plans don’t change week to week. You can tell what day of the week it is based on the food being served. Here at 4D the meals that are prepared for the residents are different for as much as eight weeks. For those of us who do our own cooking we have an accessible kitchen for the residents that makes a huge difference. 4D provides a mix of autonomy and support that can be matched to the individual residents and what works best for them.
Another thing that makes 4D feel like home is the setting, we are right in a neighbourhood. We are not shut away in some industrial area; we are situated in a nice neighbourhood – right next to a park! Living at such a nice location means a lot to us at 4D; it makes us feel like we are part of the larger community.
Accessible Housing deserves to receive even more assistance so that it can continue to have Calgarians address their basic need for shelter, and for a home. We really need another four or five places like 4D because we are all filled up. It’s great that Accessible Housing is able to help those of us here but all the spots available here are full and there are still people who need the same assistance we receive here.
I’ve been in Calgary for 13 years and for 10 of those I was living on the streets, staying at various shelters, sleeping under bridges, etc. I shared a place with two other people for 3 years but that came with a whole set of problems. I connected with the encampment team from Alpha House and then was referred to Accessible Housing, the timing couldn’t have been better. I was going downhill pretty quickly and I probably wouldn’t have been alive much longer had I continued living on the streets. I was housed within a few weeks of being accepted into the program and given all of the essential items at move in, and it was all brand new! My apartment couldn’t be better and I am so grateful that Accessible Housing is subsidizing my rent until I can get onto Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH).
Now that I have safe and subsidized housing through Boardwalk who have been a really understanding and supportive landlord, I am focusing on my health for the first time in my life. My caseworker helped connect me with a family doctor. Up until now I’ve only gone to drop in clinics which has been difficult as you never build any rapport and often don’t get the necessary help. I’ve recently undergone comprehensive blood work, had a physical, I’m seeing a physiotherapist for the first time in my life for back problems I’ve struggled with for years and now my caseworker, doctor, and myself are starting to work on an application for AISH. There is no way I would be headed down this positive path if it hadn’t been for the case management component of the Bridge to Home program. My case manager attends many of the appointments with me which I appreciate.
The relationship with my landlord is great. I see the property managers once a month to pay my utility bill and usually buy them coffee! The building is well maintained, suite looks brand new and the community is built up of lots of students and families which is a really good mix of people.
The location of my housing couldn’t be better. I am close to the foothills hospital, there is a professional building across the street where I go for blood work, x-rays, and physiotherapy. Plus my doctor’s office is just a 15 minute bus ride away, and to top it off, my building backs onto a Tim Hortons!
Now that I’m not sharing with anybody else, I don’t have 25 sets of dishes piling up in the kitchen. I’m not dealing with unruly roommates or their problematic guests who I had no control over. I know that my bills are paid on time and I’m not counting on others to pay them and I know that at the end of the day I am the one who will face the outcomes of my decisions.
I am grateful every night that I have my own place to come back to at the end of the day. When I was on the streets every day I would have to think about where I was going to sleep, which shelter, under which bridge, etc. I was constantly thinking about how to keep safe from others on the street. I don’t want to ever go back to that way of life. I’m on a totally new path right now and I am not stopping.
I am just so happy to have a place to call home, to be working with such supportive and positive people and I am truly grateful for the help and continued support from my caseworker and all at Accessible Housing for making this all possible.
Remy’s life was on-track for success. At 20 years old, he moved from Eastern Canada to Canmore and had recently completed his Journeyman ticket as an automotive technician. He was also enrolled in the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG) guiding program, and enjoyed backcountry skiing, ice climbing, and mountain biking before his stroke at age 27. The stroke caused a severe brain hemorrhage, and as a result, Remy was paralyzed on the right side of his body. Remy recovered in hospital for five months, and spent one year in a rehabilitation program.
After this life-altering event, it was imperative for Remy to find an appropriate, accessible home that offered him safety and stability.
“I was never homeless, but I was going to be because I had nowhere to go. My only option was the hospital. Life on the street with my condition was not an option,” said Remy.
After moving into low-income housing in downtown Calgary, he was able to start gaining back his independence. Remy had to make changes to his apartment, which included attaching rope to doors so he could easily open them, and installing a temporary “super pole” in the apartment to allow him to get in and out of bed independently. But, life wasn’t easy living in an apartment not big enough for him, and Remy needed to find a more appropriate, long-term home.
It was then that Remy was connected with a caseworker from Accessible Housing’s Bridge to Home program. In a short period of time, the Bridge to Home team was able to help Remy find a safe, accessible apartment.
“Accessible Housing came to my rescue and they found me my dream apartment within one month! Without them, I would probably still be at the hospital. They took charge of everything including the moving truck. Everything a person could wish for, you were there to take care of it!” said Remy.
Remy is thriving in his new home, in part thanks to the caseworker support he receives from Accessible Housing. Without the constant stress and worry about his housing, and with his tenacity and drive, Remy is able to do things that he loves including climbing, skiing and kayaking. Most importantly, he now enjoys inviting friends and family over to his home, something he never felt comfortable doing in his previous home.
Kelly has lived in the same home for 14 years. As a wheelchair user, her bathroom had become a dangerous place. She’d even begun to avoid brushing her teeth in the bathroom because she was afraid of the pain she’d endure trying to shift and strain herself to get into the tiny space. A vent in the middle of the floor would catch her chair’s wheels, and the bathtub was so low she had to be lifted into it by a caregiver. The RAD Renovations team, working with contractor Stephen, tripled the size of the bathroom by borrowing space from an adjacent closet, installed an accessible sink, and created a beautiful tile roll-in shower with safety temperature valves to ensure Kelly cannot be burned by too-hot water.
Kelly’s beautiful new bathroom even has a rolling barn door that she can easily close herself, and for the first time in years, she has been able to shower independently, something that greatly reduces the severity of her anxiety attacks and pain.