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Supportive housing sought for Morris area

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The formation of Red River Supportive Housing, a not-for-profit made up of members from the Town of Morris, RM of Montcalm and RM of Morris will lead the way to new supportive housing in the region.

The group announced their incorporation in a Jan. 9 press release, saying the overall focus of the committee “will be to enhance housing, social, economic and community services in the three municipalities and surrounding area”.

Sitting on the committee is Town of Morris councillor Chris Hamblin, RM of Montcalm councillor Harold Janzen and RM of Morris councillor Shane Kroeker.

Committee spokesperson Chris Hamblin said the group has formed out of a need for supportive housing of which discussions go back nearly 15 years.

“There have been some ideas floated around, we’ve worked with consultants in the past,” she said.

Hamblin said four years ago they started with a new group which has been considering various options for the region such as a for-profit or not-for-profit facility.

“We did some work and reviewing of other venues and basically came to the decision that we probably didn’t have the mass to do a for-profit centre and there are people that need this housing that probably can’t afford for-profit centres,” she said.

Instead they decided to pursue a regional based not-for-profit facility.

The road to developing such a facility is a long one, but Hamblin said they’re determined to achieve their goals.

“We are going to do everything we can to make it a reality,” she said.

The group will try to incorporate the facilities that are already out there into their plans.

“We know that there are a number of smaller venues out there in Morris, in Rosenort, in St Jean, I think Lowe Farm has one, Dominion City has one, and we’re hoping we can expand our area of reach and support those smaller venues as well,” she said.

What that support will look like has not been determined but could involve shared human resource services, dietary consulting and home care planning, taking advantage of the economies of scale.

“What we’re basically saying is we need to work together as much as possible, to make seniors housing accessible everywhere,” she said. “Obviously we can’t build a full assisted living facility in every community in our area, but if we can build one and then have the ability to help others in whatever way that works out to be, that’s what we want to do.”

Hamblin said they define “supportive housing” as “a little more support than assisted living”.

But that level of support and the rest of their plans will depend on what the community needs.

A community consultation process will begin with a survey sent by mail to every home in the three municipalities.

“When we get all the results back from that survey, that’s when we’ll decide the details of the level of support we need and then we’ll start looking at the costing and what can we provide,” she said.

While numbers on how many seniors leave the community because of a lack of assisted living spaces aren’t available, anecdotally Hamblin said there are many examples.

“I know we’ve lost easy half a dozen people, probably closer to eight or 10 that I know personally that have left the community because we do not have a facility in the area that they can use,” she said, adding they’re moving to Winnipeg, Niverville and Morden.

“They’re choosing to leave the area because they can’t get what they need here, and we don’t want that.”

Hamblin said it’s bad for mental health when seniors are forced to move away from family and friends, often having fewer visits as a result.

Hamblin said the number of Canadians over 85 is expected to double in the next 20 years, adding that the fact that three municipalities are working together shows the importance of this initiative.

She didn’t close the door on other municipalities joining the group as well.

“We’ve had other municipalities that have expressed interest but just weren’t ready to move forward when we were forming our corporation and those are things that could happen down the road.”

Hamblin admitted the road to a new facility isn’t going to be an easy one.

“It’s still a long way from shovels in the ground, but at least it’s moving,” she said. “That’s what’s keeping us excited.”

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