Independence positions Access Living advocate to give back to the community

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Gregory Roach, left, with Scott Nance at the Access Living 2012 Annual Meeting
Gregory Roach is a retired veteran who worked for the Cook County Forest Preserve from 1986 until he was laid off in 2006. Soon after, Gregory got sick and acquired a disability. As a result, he lost his housing and moved into a nursing home. He was miserable at the nursing home. However, he emerged as a leader within the nursing home. He engaged with the other residents, discussing things they were having issues with, and helping them work through those issues.

He stayed in the nursing home for four years. When someone from Access Living came to speak, he learned that there were options outside of the nursing home. Through Access Living, Gregory learned about The Deinstitutionalization Program, which enables people with disabilities in nursing homes to transition into the community. The program helps people with disabilities find accessible, affordable housing in integrated communities and provides for basic needs to set up a household, including personal assistant services. With Access Living’s assistance, Gregory was able to leave the nursing home. On March 16, 2013, he celebrated the fourth anniversary of living independently in his own apartment. Soon after moving into his own apartment, he began volunteering at Access Living. “I wanted to help other people…as someone who knew how it felt to be stuck in nursing home,” Gregory explained.

Last year, Gregory applied for and was accepted into the Staff Associates Program: a partnership with the Illinois department of human Services. He began this nine month program in November 2012, working specifically with the Long Term Care Department. In his Staff Associate role, he goes to nursing homes to meet with consumers, travels with them to hospitals, and assists them with the paper work they need to move the deinstitutionalization process forward. As a staff associate, Gregory says he works on his computer skills and leadership skills in order to better equip him to work with the community. According to Gregory, Access Living “helped [me] put [my] life back together.” Now, he wants to give back.

His favorite part about working with Access Living is the ability to have one on one conversations with people who are in the same situation he was in. “You get your blessings,” Gregory explains. “But you have to have the patience to wait and they will be answered.” As he sees it, Gregory helps people in the process of waiting for these blessings.

After his position as staff associate ends, Gregory is applying for another ten month internship at Access Living. According to Gregory, “everything in life is what you make it,” and regardless of whether he gets the new internship position, he wants to continue volunteering at Access Living. Gregory says that Access Living “makes you want to give back.”