As a member of the Valemount Senior Citizens Housing Society, I recently got an update on Valemount Cares.

Full disclosure: I no longer work as Project Lead for the society, and it wasn’t an easy exit.

In the letter, the board went to great lengths to explain that the project has always been independent living from the beginning citing details of BC Housing’s funding stream that the project is receiving funding from.

The board members named themselves and some other committees they sit on for their tireless efforts but failed to acknowledge the members of the Valemount Cares committee that this board decided to disband without consultation. So, I want to recognize the work and countless hours spent by many on this committee since November 2019 – Beth Russell, Betty Hannis, Linda Hedberg, Laurel McKirdy, Catherine Hiroe, Kurien Thomas, Donnie MacLean and previously Ann McKirdy-Carson.

The society’s 2019 Housing and Care Needs Survey told us that 74 percent of Valemount’s seniors want services, programs, and social opportunities along with housing to stay independent and continue to live in Valemount. 

Since BC Housing’s Community Housing Fund program only funds the capital and operating cost of the residential portion for independent living, the strategy with the Valemount Cares project has always been to leverage Community Housing Fund funding to find other money to deliver Supportive Living, in the same way we got the Community Theatre with the new high school. Both Supportive Living and Assisted Living are available only to seniors who can live independently. So, I did the work to secure enough grants and donations to make construction of the common spaces possible without any mortgage associated with those spaces. Operating budgets for the common spaces had been vetted by BC Housing, CMHC and Federation of Canadian Municipalities at various stages.

BC Housing’s Community Housing Fund program is also being used by the Clinton and District Assisted Living Society to offer Supportive Living for seniors. There are several examples where BC Housing is a partner subsidizing rents, and housing societies creatively manage to deliver Supportive Living for seniors with or without the help of their Health Authority (Chetwynd, Fort Nelson and Golden to name others). 

When I was working as Project Lead, I initiated conversations with Northern Health and BC Housing’s Supportive Housing program. I also invited BC’s Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie and our MLA Shirley Bond to hear first-hand what we’re trying to do here, and they offered their help to advocate with BC Housing and Northern Health to make Supportive Living a reality.

The board insisted that the Community Housing Fund program is meant for independent living and therefore the scope of the project “has always been” Independent Living. They shared information of meetings with BC Housing where they were told that. However, they did not share that BC Housing’s own Supportive Housing program was willing to be a partner and consider funding towards the common spaces. That BC Housing’s Community Housing Fund program has been used to deliver Supportive Living in other communities. 

This board is not honouring the goal of the project, the extensive community engagement that shaped it and its own important role as advocates to challenge the BC Housing Community Housing Fund program to be flexible (like it has in other communities) to help deliver what Valemount needs.

The role of Council and boards is to advocate for the people they serve, to challenge the status quo, current legislation, and policies so it serves our communities better.

The Valemount Cares project must remain true to the committee’s vision and serve the community’s needs.

Rashmi Narayan

Valemount, BC