Elders thrilled as Rainbow Gardens opens 20 new seniors’ apartments

Denise Titian, October 24, 2019

Patty Frank stands outside her new home at Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens, one of the 20 independent living units that recently became available for seniors with the facility’s expansion in Port Alberni. (Denise Titian photo)

Port Alberni, BC — 

Older Nuu-chah-nulth people living on fixed incomes now have a new, more dignified option when it comes to housing now that Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens is accepting applications for 20 brand new independent living units.

Gerri Thomas, administrator at Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens, is pleased to announce that 20 newly constructed apartment units are quickly filling up – and most of the new tenants are Nuu-chah-nulth-aht.

“The Rainbow Gardens Board of Directors have a community of care philosophy that is used to provide services to the elders in our community,” she said. Their mandate, she went on to say, is to have a facility for First Nations people with First Nations staff to help them.

The new apartments are locked and secure. Each unit has one bedroom and they are designed for people with mobility issues.

“They are air conditioned, have on-site laundry and each unit has a small patio,” said Thomas.

New tenant Patti Frank of Ahousaht will be moving in Nov. 1. Her independent living apartment is a far cry from the tiny, cold, damp basement apartment she was renting for $750 a month.

“It was so cold, my arthritis would flare up,” she said.

Shelley Frank is Patti’s daughter and works at Tsawaayuus. She said the upstairs unit above her mother’s apartment would leak, and the bathroom was directly above her bed.

“I don’t know how many times I had to go get her at night because it was leaking,” she shared.

Shelley has been working prospective tenants through the application process. There are ten units on each side of the single-story building. One side is independent living and the other side is wheelchair-friendly.

The units are not furnished. Tsawaayuus has a heat room that treats the furniture and belongings of new tenants to remove the threat of pests.

Tenant’s rent is paid for by 30 percent of their income, which is not much when you’re on a fixed-income pension, said Shelly, and any costs not covered by this are subsidized by BC Housing. In addition, tenants pay for their utilities, phone, cable and/or internet. They may opt into the Alberni Lifeline service which supplies them with a device that allows them to get help in a medical emergency.

New tenants also enjoy complimentary free cable until April 2020.

A walkway has been built around the perimeter of the building making a safe space for the seniors to get some exercise. There are plans to plant blueberry bushes along the path with fruit trees on the property.

“We want to make an edible garden so that the elders can harvest the fruit and make what they want from it,” said Thomas.

Of the 17 new tenants who are signed up, 15 are Nuu-chah-nulth with eight fluent speakers. This will allow them to communicate with one another in their first language in a time when opportunities for having a conversation with a fluent Nuu-chah-nulth speaker is rare.

There is a gathering space in the facility that will allow for group celebrations or cultural gatherings. With the interest in saving the Nuu-chah-nulth language at its highest, the Franks believe there will be plenty of visitors looking to talk to the fluent speakers.

“I feel excited, happy to be on this new adventure,” said Patti.

She knows most of the new tenants and says it’s like family getting together.

Rainbow Gardens built the new units in association with BC Housing. While the units are filling up quickly, Thomas says there are still two units available; both are wheelchair friendly.

Contact Shelly Frank at Rainbow Gardens to enquire.