Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Supporting seniors not on the governments agenda

Two stories in the local paper shows how little the conservative and the BC Liberals care about supporting seniors.  The first is about a local volunteer group that helps seniors with myriad programs, that is facing the loss of funding. Community Volunteer Services for Seniors (CVSS) operates a series of programs benefiting seniors across the Tri-Cities that includes grocery delivery, over-the-phone checkups and in-person visits.

But the group, which has relied on the United Way for 50 per cent of its funding, is losing its contract at the end of June.
Instead of funding the PoCo-based program, the United Way has chosen to fund the Better at Home program, which is administered locally by SHARE Family & Community Services Society of which I am a director. The paper doesn't say this but the funding SHARE is receiving to run this service is not close to what is needed, and the service we are offering does not meet the need. 
Without the funding, Marg Gordon, executive director of CVSS, suggested the organization could be shuttered by the end of the year.
So she was at the Port Moody council meeting Tuesday night, looking for support from politicians as the group tries to push the provincial government to revisit the program. "We're going to prevail. I don't want this message to be 'We're not around.' I want this message to be that 'We're fighting, we're fighting hard and with your support we're going to make it,'" she told council.
The organization is also looking at bridge funding until it can implement revenue-generating plans.
Council promptly approved the request to send letters of support to Premier Christy Clark and the various provincial ministries involved.
Coun. Zoe Royer called the organization an "incredible lifeline" to seniors living in isolation and suggested she's more than happy to contribute to the letter.
"It really goes to show what the power of people can do," she said.
The group serves 178 clients and has a volunteer base of more than 180 people. Most of those volunteers are seniors themselves, and former clients with the program.
Coquitlam agreed to lobby on the group's behalf, but not before at least a few Councillors had some harsh words for the governing Liberals.
"How could we possibly lock the doors on the volunteers? The provincial government has got to be crazy to do something like that," said Coun. Lou Sekora.
In April, the United Way of the Lower Mainland announced it will cut funding to 31 seniors programs across Metro Vancouver which will not be picked up by either Provincial or Federal Governments. This means a loss of support for seniors in need. 
The second story hits close to home as my cousin who is 80 lives in the coop and needs a subsidy to help her pay her rent.  an upcoming change to co-op lease programs around the province has the president worried for her residents' future.
Operating leases on seven of 11 co-op properties in the Tri-Cities are ending in 2018, while another three finish in 2024, and with their conclusion comes an end to a federal government subsidy that helps some residents stay in their homes.
That means several hundred Tri-Cities residents living in co-op housing could find themselves out of a home in a couple years.
Garden Court is one of the larger co-ops in the Tri-Cities with 99 apartments and 22 townhomes, with 37 units on subsidy.
"Everyone who's in a co-op is seriously worried about it," Raffan told the Tri-Cities NOW. She's even more worried for some of the seniors in the coop living on a pension who have no family and can't afford higher costs.
And that's where the Cooperative Housing Federation of BC (CHFBC) is hoping to get the word out about the upcoming change to the subsidy through a campaign called "You Hold the Key: fix the co-op housing crunch."
The organization will host an event in the Tri-Cities next week for co-op members.
Fiona Jackson, communications director for the CHFBC, explained that with the federal government out of housing, the issue is now in the hands of the province.
The CHFBC is proposing the province set up a subsidy program similar to the one offered by the feds.
"We're saying now that housing is a provincial responsibility ... the province needs to find a solution rather than having all these people in these federally-funded co-ops having to potentially find new homes," Jackson said.
The CHFBC suggested its proposal would cost the province an extra $2.5 million initially as the first few co-op agreements come to an end and top out at no more than $20 million.
A co-op is a non-profit federally funded mixed-income community with no landlords where everyone owns a share. A board of directors runs each co-op.
The CHFBC estimates about one third of people living in co-ops are eligible for the rent subsidy.
In the Tri-Cities, more than 260 households will face a loss of subsidy by 2018, with that number rising past 300 by 2024.
Back at Garden Court, Raffan said she supports the federation's proposal for the province to step in, and is urging her members to get involved in the campaign.
She's also trying to work on plans to get a subsidy that lasts for a few years.
"Someone has to care out there. It's just a really sad situation," Raffan said.
The CHFBC is holding a campaign event in the Tri-Cities on Thursday, June 19 at 7 p.m. at Falcon Crest Estates Co-op, at 1170 Falcon Dr. in Coquitlam.
- See more at: http://www.thenownews.com

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