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Live up to community-service principles, concerned senior-care experts tell Lions Club

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Experts in seniors care have asked Lions Place to reconsider a pause on the sale of the 287-unit non-profit building, saying the spectre of losing their homes is causing residents harm and puts them at risk of elder abuse.

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Experts in seniors care have asked Lions Place to reconsider a pause on the sale of the 287-unit non-profit building, saying the spectre of losing their homes is causing residents harm and puts them at risk of elder abuse.

“If the building becomes privatized and profitized, the displacement of existing tenants can push some into homelessness or unsuitable housing, as well as precipitate premature entry into long-term residential care,” said a joint letter sent by 10 university professors of sociology, criminology, social work and nursing to the board of Lions Place and Manitoba’s ministers responsible for seniors and housing.

They wrote the letter after it was reported the Lions Club rejected a request from Lions Place residents to put a 90-day hold on the sale of Manitoba’s largest non-profit seniors housing apartment block.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

10 university professors sent a joint letter to the board of Lions Place and Manitoba’s ministers responsible for seniors and housing asking them to reconsider a pause on the sale of the 287-unit non-profit Lions Place building.

“We believe your board will aggrieve and potentially victimize Lions Place residents if it does not pause the sale to allow for a solution to be worked out to ensure the building remains not-for-profit, and most importantly, affordable…. If older adults were displaced from their homes this way in a family setting, it would be considered a form of elder abuse or ‘oppressive action,’” said the letter bearing Wednesday’s date.

The Lions Club of Winnipeg and its Lions Housing Centres have a responsibility to their mostly elderly residents to make sure the sale of Lions Place doesn’t leave them without safe housing options, said University of Manitoba sociology and criminology professor Laura Funk who helped write the letter.

“If you were in a family, and it was an older person that you essentially displaced from their home, you’re responsible to find them an alternate place to live that would be suitable. Otherwise, that would constitute a form of elder abuse,” Funk told the Free Press Thursday.

The lack of safe, affordable housing in Winnipeg is worrying for residents of the building at 610 Portage Ave., and so is the potential loss of community that’s proven to be vital to the health and independence of older adults.

“During COVID, these sorts of apartments for older adults — when they couldn’t rely as much on their family because their family couldn’t visit — often became really tight-knit communities, with residents relying on each other, ” said Funk, who researched the matter.

“That’s a really important social network, that’s also crucial for health and well-being, that’s often overlooked.”

The letter asks the service club — which hasn’t responded to Free Press requests for comment — to live up to its stated principles of kindness and community service and allow time for another non-profit organization interested in operating the building to come up with a plan.

A working group made up of federal and provincial government representatives, Lions Place residents, the Manitoba Non-Profit Housing Association and the University of Winnipeg Community Renewal Corp. is scheduled to meet Friday in an attempt to come up with a plan.

So far, Lions Place hasn’t responded to the group’s offer to help, said Tom Simms, who’s with the residents seniors action committee.

Seniors and Long-term Care Minister Scott Johnston and Families Minister Rochelle Squires were not made available for comment Thursday. The government said in a prepared statement that it has had “productive conversations” with the seniors committee at Lions Place and other levels of government and is “committed to ensuring all residents have a place to call home.”

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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