Citizens All Association 1973-2013

By: Liz King

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          In the early 1970’s concerned parents and citizens were looking for an alternative to institutional living for their family members.  It was the feeling at that time that some residents in Valley View could also benefit by living in less restrictive circumstances in the community.

          This forward thinking group organized themselves into an organization recognizing that each individual is unique and valuable and came up with the respectful, inclusive name Citizens All which encompassed all of us.

          This organization received the input and support of Core Services, SAMR local and provincial and Valley View Staff.  They helped pioneer residential and supportive living services in our community.  We need to remember that there were few guidelines and standards in place for these initiatives.  Even the language was changing, for example Mental Retardation to Mental Handicap to Mental Disability to Developmental Disability; Normalization and Exceptionalities to name a few.  Also, the names referring to the people we serve changed from resident to client to participant to find a more respectful description for the people involved.  Even our slogan changed from “Opening Doors for handicapped people” to “Supporting people with intellectual disabilities.”

          The first Citizens All Board was very busy with Tom Durrant as its Founding President from 1973-75 establishing new Group Home facilities.  The Board couldn’t receive a mortgage from CMHC for the purchase of the first 2 homes, Simpson and Connaught, that would include renovation costs.  The late Tom Gifco, a board member, purchased the homes, had the renovations done and then sold them back to Citizens All at cost so they could now obtain the mortgages.  These homes replaced the temporary residences which were the vacant Doctors Houses on Marfield Drive at Valley View Centre.  The Board had the 1084 Athabasca house built and then also purchased the Gordon Road House.

          The first office was upstairs in a back room on zero Block Stadacona W. The staff was composed of Eileen Klassen -1st Director and Ken McDonald – a part time bookkeeper, 4 Full time House parents and 4 permanent part time or relief House parents.  Later, program staff were added to each house.

          Gord Mueller replaced Eileen when she moved to B.C. and did continue with the bare bones administration but did expand to a larger office.  After a year, Gord decided to pursue his love of farming.  Denise Cook then replaced Gord for a short period. 

Glen Hagel agreed to fill in as interim Director when Denise left and then was hired as Director.  We had expanded to hire a stenographer and as Ken McDonald retired, Maureen Horgan assumed both roles as stenographer and bookkeeper.

Glen’s term of 1982-86 was a transitional role for the agency.  A Supportive Living component was added for people needing some support but able to live independently in their own homes.  It was during this time that the staff decided to unionize and we had several years of negotiations until a contract was finally ratified.  With the contract the staffing module changed to Residential Supervisors working a 4 day 24 hour shift, Supportive Living Workers working an 8 hour flexible shift- same as the Program Staff.  Our staffing complement was now at about 25; 2 admin, 17 residential program and supportive living workers and about 8 relief part time workers.  The Architect students at SIAST took on a project to develop a logo for us.  The slogan of Opening Doors for Handicapped People accompanied the new logo.  Margaret Fern took over when Glen left and during her term the office moved to High Street and expanded to include an Admin Assistant and Office Secretary.

          Changes continued during Margaret Fern’s term! Government had also made changes, Core services was phased out and replaced with Community Living Division under the umbrella of Social Services.  Funding was now available to build state of the art larger residences allowing each participant the privacy of their own room.  Simpson house was sold and replaced with a new Athabasca house. 

          We survived a fire at High Street office but did lose some files and financial records.  The office then moved upstairs to the Scott Block.

          Citizens All tried an Apartment Living Program with a staff member available 24 hours having an apartment in the same building as the participants.  After several years it was determined that these individuals were capable of living independently with some daily sustainable support.

          The Board decided to sell Connaught House and replace it with a new home on Hochelaga. The number of residential participants remained fairly constant at around 24 participants but the Supportive Living program in the community was growing.The need for more office space was evident and Citizens All received permission and funding to renovate the basement of the new Hoch house and locate the office there, where it remains to this day.

          Donna Corthy now replaced Margaret Fern and more changes were occurring.  One of the most admirable assets of this organization is the ability to be innovative and adapt to needs of the participants.

          It was decided to sell the 1084 Atha House and replace it with a newer house on Stad. Government was tightening its purse strings and wasn’t so forth coming with funding for a new house, so a newer concept evolved called Group Living Homes.  The participants themselves or a group of them being eligible for SAP from Social Services would rent a home and then contract Citizens All to provide 24 hour 7 days a week staff coverage.  Citizens All had 2 Group Living Homes; Connaught House, which had been sold was now being rented by 4 participants, and a house in the 1400 block of Hastings for 2 participants.

          Donna left in 2001 and Val Budd-Pritchard joined our organization as Executive Director.  The organization continues to expand.  Gordon Road House was sold and replaced with the purchase of a newer home in the 900 block of Hastings Street. The office space in the basement of Hochelaga has been expanded.  Another home has been purchased, Oak House and the Group Living residents from the 1400 block Hastings have moved into their own residence at Oak.

          So now Citizens All has 5 residences Atha, Hoch, Stad, Hastings and Oak and 1 Group Living Home- Connaught. Atha, Hoch, Oak and Hastings now run a shift module while the other homes run with Resident Supervisors.  The Residential Houses involve 26 participants while the Community Supportive Living Program has 32 participants. Citizens All has a staff complement of 70 people- an admin of 7 people and a budget that started in the hundreds of thousands in the 1970’s to over 2 million dollars today.

          Most of this history mentions the decision makers, the Board and the Admin staff who implement those decisions but the people who harness that power are the hands-on staff.  Those people who work with our people every night and day.  I extend my gratitude and respect to all of you.  Participants of Citizens All, without you we wouldn’t be here so to the past and the present Participants, Board, administration and the Care workers I salute you for keeping our loved ones safe, healthy and involved in the community and truly enabling all of us to be Citizens All.

History written by Liz King

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