There were tears of joy in Clinton on March 31, when Rich Coleman, the Minister Responsible for Housing, announced that the provincial government is committing $2.9 million to fund the construction of a 10-unit living facility for seniors in the village and surrounding areas, including Loon Lake, 70 Mile, Green Lake, Canoe Creek, Dog Creek, Cache Creek, and Ashcroft.
For more than five years, the Clinton and District Assisted Living Society has been trying to establish a seniors facility in the community, to allow people to age in place and not have to leave. Their eye has always been on the former Clinton Elementary School site on Smith Avenue (the school closed in 2010).
A stumbling block has been the school building, which has to be demolished. However, earlier this year School District No. 74 received funding to tear down the school, hopefully before the end of the school year.
“The Clinton Elementary site has been part of the picture since the very beginning,” says Judy Hampton, chair of the Assisted Living Society. “It backs onto Reg Conn Park, it’s perfectly level, it’s fenced and serviced, it’s on a dead end street, it’s directly across from the seniors centre, and people won’t have to cross the highway for most shops and services.
“And it’s only half-a-block from David Stoddart School, which will facilitate communication between seniors and students.”
Coleman says that he hopes B.C. Housing can obtain some or all of the school site, either by lease or purchase. However, he adds that they are committed to building the facility, and will purchase property elsewhere in Clinton if necessary. “All we need is a site. It would take a year or less to build it.” He adds that there would be no carrying cost or debts, and suggested monthly rental fees would be $350 to $400 per month.
The units will be designed so that they are completely accessible to those with mobility issues, with features including extra-wide bathrooms and roll-in showers.
“You guys were great,” Coleman told members of the society who had gathered for the announcement. “You got right on it and there was good follow-up. We looked at it and said ‘This will work.’ I went back to Victoria [after visiting Clinton and meeting with the society in May 2016] and said ‘Make sure these people are included.’”
Clinton mayor Jim Rivett said that the creation of 10 more rental units in town is good for business and the economy. “Houses sell quickly here and there are no rental units. There are lots of jobs available, but businesses can’t bring in help because there’s no place to stay. This will free up 10 places around town.”
Indeed, a member of the society jokingly told Coleman that “Seven people already have their houses for sale.” The minister told them not to rush: “We still have to build it.”
Hampton agrees with the mayor that the building will be an asset to Clinton. “Having this facility in our community will be a boost to our economy, employment, the medical clinic, and the ambulance system. Although on a small scale, it’s a big deal for such a small community.
“We thank Rich Coleman, our MLA Jackie Tegart, and our village council and staff for being a very important part of our project actually happening. It’s been a wonderful day, and we’re all so excited. It’s huge, people not having to leave here. We have a large number of people over the age of 55. The elders in our community are our history, and helped build the community.
“Now we can keep our seniors here.”