An anonymous foundation is prepared to donate $2 million to build a permanent seniors’ centre on 72nd Avenue.
The donation hinges on a BC Housing grant that would fund a neighbouring housing complex for low-income seniors and people with disabilities, according to Whole Way House, a Vancouver-based non-profit dedicated to achieving housing solutions for veterans and the elderly.
Grand Forks has been without a permanent seniors’ centre since May 2018, when major flooding vitally damaged the Seniors’ Society’s building in City Park. Without a functioning hub, society secretary Juliana Chadwick said area seniors are increasingly feeling the strain of social isolation, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What we need is a building with a permanent lease, so that we’re not constantly shuffling from building to building; from church basement to church basement, and so on,” she told The Gazette Wednesday, May 19.
Chadwick and society president Ian Taylor said they hope to partner with WWH president and co-founder Jenny Konkin. Under the tentative arrangements of their partnership, WWH would use its BC Housing grant to build 51 mixed market rentals on a city-owned lot across from Grand Forks Curling Club. Konkin said the donor foundation would then kick in $2 million to build an adjoining seniors’ centre to be run by the seniors’ society.
The centre would host events for all Grand Forks’ seniors, including Whole Way House residents.
Konkin said Thursday, May 20, that she was “waiting with bated breath” to hear if BC Housing would approve WWH’s grant application. If approved, WWH would hope to break ground at its 72nd Avenue location this fall, she added.
Noting that all of this is contingent on WWH’s grant approval, Chadwick and Taylor said the seniors’ society is meanwhile looking to secure a short-term lease at a Grand Forks location. To that end, city council appointed Coun. Everett Baker to serve as a liaison to the seniors’ community on Monday, May 17.
“There are possibly some storefronts in town that can be leased while they’re waiting to hear from Whole Way House,” Baker said at a meeting with Chadwick and Taylor Wednesday, May 19. If they could find such a location, Baker said city council would consider a fee for service that would help with the society’s rent.
Konkin thanked the City of Grand Forks, noting that Mayor Brian Taylor’s letters of support considerably sped up WWH’s grant application process.
WWH’s seniors’ complex would be pet-friendly, within certain limitations.
“I don’t think seniors should have to choose between their pets and their housing,” she said.