Hamilton Brain Injury Association: Someone to lean on

Happy woman in a wheelchair outside in a fieldThe Hamilton Brain Injury Association’s long search for a new home is over.

The Association has been homeless since 2009, when Hamilton Health Sciences moved its acquired brain injury program from Chedoke Hospital to the new Regional Rehabilitation Centre at the Hamilton General. Although HHS offered meeting space at the new rehab centre, it wasn’t appropriate for survivor support groups so programming was scattered across various community sites.

Until now.

HBIA’s new home is a historic brick building on Main Street East that many will recognize as the former location of Hicks Furs. Its grand scale allows HBIA to not only gather all its existing programming under one roof but realize a long-held dream: a clubhouse.

It’s not exactly as it sounds. An acquired brain injury “clubhouse” is a model that, more than 70 years after it was first conceived, remains a best practice in ABI rehab. There are no “patients” in a clubhouse, only “members” who participate in a community where they’re treated with respect and recognized for their contributions, no matter how small. Members support each other to pursue personal goals, rebuild relationships, strengthen self-esteem and regain control of their lives. Learn more about the International Brain Injury Alliance.

Unfortunately, finding a location only gets HBIA halfway to home—making the building accessible to everyone still lies ahead. The landlord is busy with renovations and an application has been submitted to the city for wheelchair ramps, which will come with a hefty $25,000 price tag.

Move-in is planned for spring 2013, when the Association will begin hosting support groups in the new location. Expanded offerings, including five days a week of clubhouse programming, will come later. Planning for an open house has already begun.

The HBIA board couldn’t be happier; members are eager to work with community partners to expand the services offered to the community. The optimism is echoed by survivor representative, Dave Gaylor, who predicts 2013 will be a banner year in terms of participation.

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