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Seniors housing facility in Fort Nelson needs $1.7M

They have the land. The walls are up. Now organizers of a supported living facility for Fort Nelson seniors are looking for help to finish the building that has been five years in the making.

They have the land. The walls are up. Now organizers of a supported living facility for Fort Nelson seniors are looking for help to finish the building that has been five years in the making.

The money that has been given to Heritage Place so far – nearly a million dollars – has all been donated from inside the community, from people and businesses, said Northern Rockies Seniors Society (NRSS) administrator Joan Kinzett.

The municipality has also supported the project by donating the land that the building sits on and waiving fees for the facility.

But they still need approximately $1.7 million more to finish the project.

“We’re doing everything we can to get this place finished. The town has been so supportive, it’s unbelievable, but it’s a lot to keep asking them,” said Kinzett. “We’re pretty quiet up here right now.”

Getting the parking lot paved will be one of the more expensive components to the project.

According to Kinzett, the need for such a facility in Fort Nelson is dire. As it stands, there are only two options for seniors who are in need of housing: Grace Manor, an independent living facility with 23 units, or, if they are unable to care for themselves, the hospital.

But that isn’t ideal.

“I find that when they go [to the hospital] they deteriorate really fast,” said Kinzett.

The idea is that Heritage Place would act as an in-between for those that are not able to live independently, but at the same time don’t require hospitalization. Heritage Place would provide meals, light housekeeping, laundry, and organized activities.

As it stands  now, the only other option is that they move out of Northern Rockies Regional District, but with the extensive wait lists at Fort St. John seniors housing facilities, they’re usually forced to look even further south.

That vacuum has a ripple effect on the rest of the community.

Kinzett said that some people have left the town because their aging parents don’t have an adequate living facility. It is also a deterrent to anyone considering moving here. Just as the stagnant town is struggling to reopen the maternity ward to attract young couples interested in starting families, it also needs a facility like this one to care for its elderly population.

“That way you’d have more leeway and people would move from one place to another, but they’re still in their hometown. Some of these people have been here 40 or 50 years,” said Kinzett.

The NRSS holds several fundraisers each year: a bonspiel, Hoops for Homes in conjunction with local schools, and their biggest event, Fall Frolic. Kinzett said that the Frolic — a dinner with live and silent auctions — typically brings in $100,000 for the project.

All of the money raised for housing goes into the coffers the Heritage Place, but the NRSS provides other services for seniors in the community, such as transportation and social and recreational events.

On Jan. 10 this year, Nexen Energy ULC and INPEX Gas British Columbia Ltd. (IGBG) donated $65,000 towards a new 14-seat bus. That service is subsidized by advertising on the side of the vehicle.

The next step for the building is getting a total price on what it will cost to finish. Once they have that number, they’ll approach a bank for a mortgage.

“We just need to get this building up,” said Kinzett.       

peacereporter@ahnfsj.ca