Once a month, the Seniors Community Planning Table-West End gathers at Gordon Neighbourhood House (GNH) to exchange information and discuss issues critical to West End seniors. The 2013 sessions wrapped up at a meeting on December 6, which had over 35 attendees representing a cross-section of local residents, and seniors’ services and advocacy groups.
After an overview of fall activities, an open discussion followed on seniors’ priorities for 2014. Sharon Isaak, Seniors Planning Table and Housing Outreach Coordinator, reported on preliminary results from a seniors’ needs assessment survey, which had over 200 responses. Many concerns were highlighted regarding seniors’ housing security in the face of potential economic evictions and displacement of seniors who rent.
The high cost of rent is affecting many West End seniors. Over 68% of seniors rent their homes in this neighbourhood, compared with a citywide average of about 34%. There are increasing worries about seniors being driven out of the West End because of unaffordability. It isn’t hard to image the huge distress such displacement would have on a senior’s health and wellbeing.
Lorraine Copas, Executive Director at BC’s Social Planning and Research Council (SPARC), also spoke about SPARC’s new initiative, the Digital Stories project. In partnership between SPARC BC, GNH, and the West End Seniors Network, with funding support from the United Way, this project’s aim is to gather seniors’ voices on pressing housing matters. According to Lorraine, “Policy makers need to hear these stories.” Statistics are indicating many concerns about seniors housing insecurity. By also hearing seniors’ stories, it’s hoped this data will come alive and raise awareness about the impact on seniors if decision-makers don’t pay attention to what is really important.
When I contacted Lorraine in January for an update, she was eager to remind everyone about the Digital Stories project and its goals: “to create a digital story that helps to draw attention to some of the specific challenges that seniors face in finding and keeping housing that they can afford.”
As Lorraine explained, if you are a senior or know of seniors experiencing housing stress, worrying about paying your rent, or facing the challenges of moving from the West End due to unaffordable rent increases, you are invited to get involved in the Digital Stories project. You can help to raise awareness about the types of housing stress West End seniors are facing. If you want to be part of the Digital Stories project and have a story to share, please let us know. You can call Lorraine Copas at (604) 718-7736 or send an email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also let Sharon Isaak or Ana Maria Bustamente at GNH know that you are interested in participating. You can help us work together to make change happen!
The next Seniors Community Planning Table-West End meeting will be at Gordon Neighbourhood House on Friday, January 31, from 10:00am – 12noon. Please join us!
For more information please contact:
Sharon Isaak, Seniors Planning Table and Housing Outreach Coordinator
Ana Maria Bustamente, GNH Community Developer
Written by Anita Miettunen, GNH Community Journalist/Blogger, with input from Lorraine Copas.