Edwina Nearhood: Seniors need housing solution and housing action now


Congratulations, Fort St. John, you are a community that shows up to work together.

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We are a community prepared to get things done. In case you didn’t hear the buzz, there was a development team in town last week. The purpose was to complete focus groups to determine the needs for a Social Enterprise Active Adult Living Development project. The team included local developers Ron Brar, Kevin Pearson, project manager Myron Dirks, seniors housing consultant Terry Collier, and myself, community liaison. The purpose of their visit was to better understand the needs of the community.

Over the course of one week, six focus group meetings were held, 17 meetings with community leaders, three meetings with local First Nations groups and organizations. There was outstanding participation in the senior needs assessment survey. 

There was also quite a bit of learning from Terry Collier, our senior consultant with more than 37 years in the industry. His knowledge and wisdom was greatly received by community participants. We did not come across any groups or organizations in opposition of the need for supported housing for our seniors and residents that require accessible housing. The purpose of the week was one of discovery to be able to understand what is needed to make the most efficient steps forward.

According to SONS (Save Our Northern Seniors,) as of September 2018 there were 346 local residents in senior housing with a wait list of 256. Where would you or a loved one move to if you could no longer live in your home? 

The wait list is long. Where would you go if you had to wait? 

There is evidence that approximately 20% of the long-term care beds are currently filled with seniors that do not need that level of care, however, there is no place for them to go. Forecasts for the Peace River North local health area prediction that by 2036 the senior population over 65 will grow by 171%. 

The senior population demographic is the fastest growing demographic in the north. We need a solution now. We need action now. Building social housing is not a recipe to get rich. It is an opportunity to service the social needs of our community. It is an opportunity to build a legacy to celebrate our seniors. A social enterprise project is an opportunity for all levels of the community to come together to service the needs of our elders. 

How do we do that? We need strong support from our not-for-profits and in return we need to support our not-for-profits to help build their capacity to service the needs of our seniors. We need to let our local, provincial, and federal governments know what the needs of the community are. 

How can you help today? Every level of our community needs to come together. Not for profits, First Nations, local residents, levels of governments, the health authority, educators, etc. must come together to support this great need for the legacy of our seniors. 

Consider writing a personal letter of support to Dan Davies, MLA, and Bob Zimmer, MP, confirming the need for senior housing in our community. 

The letter should include the following: 

1) Who you are (age range, where you live and any special needs you may have such as supported care, assisted living, meals, accessibility, home supports, etc.) 

2) What types of services are needed in the community. Be specific: Affordability, meals, types of supported programing, etc.

Next steps: We will be compiling our focus group and survey assessment findings into a report that can be utilized to move forward with the next steps. To keep updated on the progress of the project you can go to the Peace Enterprise website or Facebook page.

Edwina Nearhood is a life-long resident of Fort St. John, with 30 years experience in the appraisal industry.

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