British Columbia

Safe housing suite for seniors opens in Kamloops

A safe suite is now available specifically for people older than 60.

Seniors unable to house themselves now have a dedicated safe space to go to

Seniors who need a safe space to live for a couple of months can access the Kamloops safe suite by contacting the Canadian Mental Health Association or ASK Wellness. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

A new safe suite is being created in Kamloops to house seniors fleeing conflict and seniors who find themselves without a home. 

The need for a seniors-specific program has been demonstrated by the number of older people seeking shelter at the Emerald Centre, a 42-bed shelter downtown.

At least four of the beds at the shelter are occupied each night by people over the age of 55, Kamloops Canadian Mental Health Association executive director Christa Mullaly told CBC's Doug Herbert.

"We know some folks are on fixed income and when things change for them they lose their housing if they don't have a support network to rely on," she said. 

Mullaly said seniors seek shelter because of illness or breakdowns with marriages and family, which render them unable to earn income to pay rent and bills.

Christa Mullaly, executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association in Kamloops. (Courtney Dickson/CBC)

The Canadian Mental Health Association will manage and support the safe suite with the help of the ASK Wellness Society, a local charity that works to house people in need.

There will only be one suite to begin with, meaning some seniors will still need to visit shelters and find housing in other ways. 

The safe suite — available only to people over 60 — is part of a larger program run by ASK Wellness, called the Homeless Seniors Tenancy Development Program, which uses 10 suites to house seniors in a bind that need somewhere to live.

The senior tenants live in the units, managed and rented by ASK Wellness, and within six months the idea is that they will be in a position to take over the rent on their own. Once a tenant takes over the suite, ASK Wellness acquires a new one, to keep the number of suites at 10.

The safe suite has a shorter stay expectancy than the other residences — a maximum of two months — but the Canadian Mental Health Association will work with the tenants during that time to ensure they have the supports needed to get them back into regular housing.

Mullaly expects the suite will be occupied each month.

Because of safety concerns, Mullaly could not disclose where the suite is located.

With files from Daybreak Kamloops

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