New residence gives English-speaking seniors a place to call home in Laurentians

A subsidized housing complex for seniors in the Laurentians is finally open after more than a decade of work but it is still missing a doctor for the attached health clinic.

Residents in Montcalm happy to see new seniors' residence a reality, even if it is still missing doctor

Stephen Andrew and Johanna Earle each put in about 18,000 hours of volunteer work to see the Stephen Jake Beaven seniors residence and health co-op built. (Marika Wheeler (CBC))

Norman Graham says moving from a large farmhouse on 240 acres of land to living in a two-bedroom apartment is taking some adjustment. 

But he loves the view from his new home at the Habitations Stephen Jake Beaven in Montcalm, Que.

"I have to adjust to a lot," Graham says. "I'm used to going out and walking across the fields."

Graham is among the first dozen residents of a brand new subsidized housing complex for autonomous seniors in the Laurentians.

The home, built specifically with the aging English-speaking population in mind, is the only one of its kind in the region.

It took about 50,000 hours of volunteer work and more than a decade to make happen, but the Stephen Jake Beaven residence is finally home to a dozen seniors in the Laurentians. Marika Wheeler takes us on a tour.

It was built thanks to a more than decade-long effort made by community members. A team of dedicated volunteers raised $186,000 and put in about 50,000 hours of work.

Government grants from Quebec's Société d'Habitation totaled $1.9 million and donations came from the town of Montcalm, the local development office and the Caisse de dépôt.

A necessary service

Johanna Earle, president of the board of directors of Habitations Stephen Jake Beaven, says she realized the need for a home like this 12 years ago when she was part of the town council in neighbouring Arundel, Que. 

"That's what started me on this project," Earle says. "There was nothing for anyone who spoke English in this area -- no low-cost apartments."

She says English speakers were leaving the community to live in private homes in the city, or often finding themselves isolated from friends when they moved in with their children. The home was built with an English-speaking clientele in mind, but all are welcome.

The building includes 24 one or two bedroom apartments, a laundry room, a library, a common area and a dining room where residents can be served five hot meals per week.

Norman and Diane Graham moved out of a farm house to become among the first to live in the Stephen Jake Beaven seniors residence in Montcalm, Que. (Marika Wheeler (CBC))

Missing element

Annexed to the home is a health co-op which will serve the 3,600 people living between Lachute and Mont-Tremblant.

However, it's not clear when it'll open because it doesn't have a doctor or other medical staff.

The regional health officials say they know there is a dire need for access to primary health care in the greater Mont-Tremblant, Que. region.  The co-op may be part of the solution.

"Our doctors and super-nurses could practice in these office [in Montcalm]," says health board spokesman Alain Paquette. 

"We know the community is behind this project and that's why we [are working] with them to present a project to the ministry of health and social services."

Stephen Andrew, treasurer of residence's board of directors, fears if a decision is delayed for long, they will be stuck paying mortgage on empty offices.

"The ministry will get to it as soon as they can, I think the problem is it's not a priority while they reorganize," Andrew says. "Yes, that's a road block ... It's not a malicious one, but it's a frustrating and expensive one."


Marika Wheeler

Radio-Canada journalist

Marika is based in Quebec City, where, after a 14-year career at CBC, she is now a member of Radio-Canada's enterprise journalism team.


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