Neighbourhood Link Support Services has grown organically. In the mid-1970s, a small group of East Toronto residents recognized that many of their aging neighbours were declining, simply for want of assistance with very basic activities of life. Dim eyesight meant that an elderly woman couldn’t read her mail, so she didn’t realize that the city was threatening to appropriate her property for unpaid taxes. A man with osteoporosis couldn’t carry more than one bag of groceries home, so he was subsisting on tea and toast, and his health was suffering.
Cecelia Murphy and Norm Houghton were the two drivers of the movement that became Senior Link, and they are remembered in the names of our two main buildings.
Senior Link became a leading provider of services that enabled seniors to choose to remain independent in their own homes. All too frequently, seniors reluctantly go into institutional care because they can no longer manage the everyday tasks of living on their own: laundry, cooking, housekeeping, bathing, shopping and doing business over the phone. They don’t need nursing, but they do need help.
By the mid-1990s, the number of younger people coming to Senior Link for help had increased to the point where a new agency was required, and Neighbourhood Link was created. Soon Neighbourhood Link was expanding its services from providing a weekly community dinner into a broad range of employment resources and programs, support for newcomers, assistance to the homeless, and youth initiatives.
As our programs developed, it became clear that our name had to change too, and we officially became Neighbourhood Link Support Services in 2005, although to many in the community we will always be Senior Link.
Youth initiatives are the fastest-growing aspect of the agency, as we receive funding to expand and diversify our services. We are now offering homework help and mentoring, pre-employment development and youth outreach. Without services and programs to engage them, youth in our community are at risk of falling into dangerous paths that may lead them to make unproductive choices.
Our development has always centered on our originating principle, that people sometimes need practical support to be able to choose to live independently and with dignity in their community. The three words of our slogan, “Independence, Dignity and Community,” are also a succinct expression of our values. We passionately believe that a person’s range of choices is limited when the fundamentals of living successfully are absent. With a little help, at the right time, people can assert themselves.