Brain injury survivors call for greater housing supports

Michael Coss and his father Bob. photo supplied

Their parents are getting older. Real estate prices keep rising. For Coquitlam residents living with brain injuries, the need for housing support gets more critical each day.

Brain injury survivors Michael Coss and Jessica Wegrzynowski, along with their respective parents, spoke to Coquitlam council Monday afternoon to advocate for safe, secure homes.

With a $375 rent subsidy, Wegrzynowski said she was “zero chance” of buying a place of her own.


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After suffering two hemorrhages and a stroke stemming from a malformation in the blood vessels that connect arteries and veins in the brian, Wegrzynowski has been disabled for 20 years. Her parents have cared for her during the last two decades, she told council.

“I am truly grateful for that but now that I’m getting older and so are they, I’m starting to think: ‘What will happen now?’”

Margaret and Jessica Wegrzynowski. photo supplied

Safe, stable housing is vital for a brain injury survivor, explained Coss, who said having a place to call home aided him in his physical and cognitive goals.

“Without this support I would have fallen through the cracks,” he told council.

Coss was working for Molson Coors Canada when he was in a car crash on the Coquihalla Highway that left him in a coma for more than six months. After he woke up, he had to learn how to speak and how to swallow. After seven years in different wheelchairs, Coss can now walk on his own.

Coss’s parents left their home in Quebec City the day after the crash.

“We left everything behind to support Michael,” said Bob Coss, Michael’s father.

Because his injury was work-related, Coss receives $100,000 in annual worker’s compensation to pay for his housing. Not everyone is so fortunate, Bob noted.

Bob is part of the Tri-Cities Brain Injury Support Group. The group consists of about 15 brain injury survivors and 20 parents and caregivers, Bob said.

“There are so many like Jessica who are living at home with their mom and dad and soon their parents will no longer be able to care for them,” Bob said.

Their goal, Bob said, is to seek support from each level of government, “beginning with the City of Coquitlam.”

The city has challenged the province to help provide a range of supportive housing, including medical supports, said Mayor Richard Stewart.

“It is a challenge that we need to keep raising,” Stewart said, thanking Coss and Wegrzynowski for coming forward.

“It’s a difficult journey that you’re on,” said Coun. Brent Asmundson. “The journey’s different for everybody. . . . I appreciate you raising awareness, and don’t stop.”

Wegrzynowski is the author of the novel My Spring Fling: Young Love and Living Life to the Fullest, about living as a teen with disabilities.

The Michael Coss Brain Injury Foundation helps children who have suffered brain injuries.


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