Advancing consumer care and compassionate service delivery

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My name is Al R, I am one of the founders of Nucleus, former Board member and consumer of Nucleus for the past 30 years. This is the story of Nucleus, of its creation and growth over the years, and future vision for our organization As many citizens are aware, the housing shortage in Canada has been critical, especially for people with disabilities.

In 1981, the Canadian Paraplegic Association investigated this issue by contacting some patients at Lyndhurst Rehabilitation Hospital to try and help them determine their needs. The patients had recently sustained spinal cord injuries and would be requiring wheelchair accessible housing with attendant services. It was very evident that there was a shortage of appropriate accommodations. Existing support service projects had extensive waiting lists with a possible vacancy of 1 - 2 per years. Many people were having to face the grim possibility of chronic care institutions, or having to move home to inaccessible environments and put the onus on family members for assistance; hence the birth of Nucleus. That group of patients were the founding consumers of Nucleus. We first requested a meeting with Jackie Rodgers who was with the Accommodation and Support Service Committee of the Ontario Advisory Council for Physically Disabled. Following this informative meeting, we realized that we would require a well-developed strategy if we were to achieve our goal to live independently in the community and that we were responsible to do it on our own.

Meanwhile, we held our first official meeting in February 1982 and decided to adopt the name "Nucleus Housing.” Darrel Murphy was elected President and proceeded to demonstrate determination through strong leadership. We sent letters to every local MPP, various government ministries and all existing support service projects to gain their needed support. We held meetings with the Board of Directors of Clarendon and Morrison who were unable to commit to a new project but offered their support. Some MPP's arranged contacts within the ministries so we could present our dilemma. We held meetings with Murray Wilson, Executive Director of the Ministry of Housing and with the Honourable Frank Drea, Minister of Community and Social Services (COMSOC). Mr. Wilson stated his ministry would consider funding renovations for a project however, there needed to be a COMSOC commitment and Mr. Drea informed us that his ministry would be responsible for the funding of the attendant services, but this was contingent upon Nucleus finding a building. We contacted Cheshire Homes Foundation to request affiliate status, and were granted permission to use Cheshire's charitable tax number for fund-raising purposes. Rather than establish ourselves as a conventional support service project, we decided to develop ourselves as an attendant services co-operative with the majority of the members of the Board of Directors being tenants (consumers). We then created committees to deal with the various components of our project.
In May, we received a verbal commitment for allocation of funds from COMSOC, contingent upon a firm commitment for the actual housing component of the project. We met with numerous non-profit housing organizations and were successful in getting a commitment from Metropolitan Toronto Housing Co., for 14 units plus one for an office in one of their new buildings. Our architect submitted several new and unique design changes to increase accessibility and enhance independence. Nucleus Housing Inc. was incorporated in August 1982 and we hired our first Executive Director to assist with the administrative functions of our organization.

We commenced operation in July 1983, providing 24 hour attendant services for 14 individuals who had sustained spinal cord injuries. Nucleus was the first organization created and operated by people with a disability, at that time. In the following September, we celebrated our grand opening and was fortunate to have Sir Leonard Cheshire there to officially inaugurate the project. Being motivated by our independence, by 1985 we were eager to build on our knowledge and create a second project. Members of the housing committee started the strenuous and at times extremely frustrating task of finding a location. Over the next couple of years, approximately 15 different sites and organizations were considered, some were inappropriate for our needs or became victims of bureaucratic "red tape" as a result of zoning by-laws. The committee became involved with the Co-operative Housing Federation of Toronto and were asked in January 1988 to help form a Founding Co-op Board. Two consumers of Nucleus were elected to the founding Board of Humberview Housing Co-op and along with the other Board members became very involved in all aspects of the project. The Humberview Board was dedicated to working with the architects in creating a fully accessible environment. As a result, we established a close relationship with the co-op in the design and selection of the units and office. COMSOC was kept informed throughout the lengthy process and after meeting with the Honourable Charles Beer, Minister of Community and Social Services he advised us that funding would be obtainable.

In February 1991, the co-op was completed and Nucleus 2 began providing services to 14 more individuals, in unique and accessible one, two and three bedroom units. There were two new areas of service that we undertook; one was to provide attendant services for two female consumers; the second feature would be the delivery of service to a consumer who required a respirator for assistance in breathing. In 1999 Nucleus was successful in expanding its efforts and expertise in attendant services to the Mississauga and Brampton area through an attendant outreach program. This program provides primarily attendant care and personal support to persons with physical disabilities from 6:00 am to 12:00 midnight in their own homes, at school or in the workplace. Attendant Outreach differs from Supportive Housing in that services are delivered throughout a neighbourhood and is not tied to a bricks and mortar setting. Today we serve approximately 82 consumers. Nucleus also piloted a 1 year Respite Program for caregivers who support adults with physical disabilities. The pilot respite program objective was to assist caregivers in distress by providing a safe and trusted service in their absence. Eligible caregivers where allotted approximately 460 hours to utilize respite support based on their unique needs. Some caregivers utilized services for a few hours each week, others used it for a weekend to get away and refresh. At the conclusion of the pilot, Nucleus had supported 32 caregivers.

In 2008 as a result of a strategic planning process a new mission and vision was created to guide the organization into 2011. During 2008 Nucleus was approved to pilot a 24 hour Mobile Support Service called Support for Daily Living for Frail Seniors 65 years old and over. This model of service is similar to our traditional supportive housing model but it services eligible consumers throughout a mobile model within a geographical area as opposed to a bricks and mortar setting i.e, apartment building. This new program was launched in January 2009 and support over 140 consumers. In 2010 Nucleus in contract partnership with Able Living (formally Participation House) received funding through the MH LHIN to support primary caregivers with up to one week of in-home respite supports, so weary caregivers could have a much needed break. The program was branded as “ReCharge” Respite Services and currently serves 168 caregivers. Nucleus is known for accomplishing much growth and innovative community service models over the past 25 years. This includes building and maintaining two supportive housing sites in Toronto, an attendant outreach services and in-home respite program and now a new mobile supports for daily living program. Our work is designed to achieve one final goal - to allow people who require assistance with daily living the opportunity to live independently in the community and become active, functioning, self-sufficient members of society.

Thanks must go out to the many individuals, staff and to past Board and Committee members, who have dedicated their valuable efforts and knowledge to our effort.

June 20, 2010