On Tuesday, June 15 Rainbow Gardens marked the next stage of its expanding housing facilities, with 48 more units expected to be completed in summer 2022.
Construction of the homes at 6151 Russell Place has already begun, with designs to bring 48 units for independently living elders and seniors to the growing site in Port Alberni. Operated by the Westcoast Native Healthcare Society, Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens currently includes a building housing 44 long-term care beds, 10 assisted living units and a facility with 20 apartments for independent adults that opened in November 2019.
A bout of heavy afternoon rain forced the ground-breaking ceremony inside the 20-unit apartment facility, where Haa’yuups (Ron Hamilton) of the Hupacasath First Nation performed a chant, following the Nuu-chah-nulth tradition that accompanied the raising of beams when a building was constructed in the past. Haa’yuups turned soil from the future site of the new building in the hand of Darleen Watts, president of the Westcoast Native Healthcare Society.
Watts hopes that the new development will help enable people to remain at the Rainbow Gardens site for a good portion of their lives by providing higher levels of care when this becomes necessary.
“They will always belong, and that they will be cared for,” she said. “When you get older, that’s one of the things that happens, is you worry about your safety.”
As with other units on the site, the new building will be open to everyone, with an emphasis on Aboriginal elders.
“Anyone who needs a home, the door is open,” said Watts.
Those over 55 will be eligible, and following the province’s Community Housing Fund, half of the 48 units will be open to those with an annual income of up to $64,000. Another 30 per cent of the suites will be set aside for those earning under $74,000, while the remainder are for low incomes, including those on income and disability assistance. Three of the units will have two bedrooms, with the remainder being one-bedroom suites.
Project Manager John Jessup said the new suites will be similar to the existing 20 independent living homes.
“The unit layouts are going to be pretty much identical, standard one-bedroom units,” he said.
With a total cost of $14.3 million, the province’s BC Housing has committed $5 million, plus an annual operating subsidy of $302,335.
“The non-profit will never be at risk, because each year BC Housing will assess the previous year’s experience, and ensure that they get a monthly grant,” said Jessup. “We really couldn’t do it without the provincial government.”
Ground dynamics at the site led the society to design a five-storey building next to the existing 20-unit, one-floor apartment complex. Besides the suites the new building will have laundry rooms, accessible washrooms and a communal garden. Additional funding from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation is being explored, which requires the new building to have 10 units that are accessible by wheelchair.
Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens first opened in 1992 with 30 long-term care beds. Fifteen years later its 10 assisted living suites opened, followed by the existing 20 independent units in 2019.