Almost 70 seniors at an assisted living home near Chinatown have got a reprieve as B.C. Housing said Sunday its non-profit partner, which has a pending deal to purchase the facility, will allow elderly residents to stay.
This will bring some personal relief for families who had been scrambling after the owner of Vancouver Grace Seniors Home at 333 East Pender issued a letter last month saying it would close the facility at the end of May.
However, there are still concerns about the sale and what it means for seniors at Grace.
After getting the sudden notice Grace will close, its residents became worried after seeing the relocation choices being offered by the current owner. There was an ad placed in Chinese-language newspaper seeking to rent homes, a building or a “large warehouse space” to house 40 seniors, which gave them little confidence there was a well-crafted plan in progress. Another ad appeared this weekend offering room and board to staff willing to work at three homes elsewhere in south Vancouver and Richmond that the owner is hoping to lease.
B.C. Housing said in its statement on Sunday it is “both frustrated and disappointed to learn about” the situation at Grace.
It’s not clear why the housing agency wasn’t aware what the current owner and residents might face. Some use B.C. Housing’s Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters for low to moderate income renters to help pay the market rent at Grace. Most are in their late 80s and 90s, and about two-thirds use Vancouver Coastal Health’s home health services. For about three decades, Grace has filled the gap for seniors between living independently and moving into a long-term care home.
B.C. Housing said its involvement in the sale includes “committing capital and operating funding for Lu’ma (Native Housing Society’s) purchase of the (333 E Pender) building, which is primarily funded through the (federal government’s) Rapid Housing Initiative, in order to retain much-needed affordable housing that would otherwise have been purchased by a private developer.”
It said “B.C. Housing and Lu’ma are taking immediate steps to support residents at 333 Pender. Lu’ma has committed that anyone who wants to stay can do so.”
Even with that offer, Christina Lam, whose 90-year-old father Cheang Che Fu lives at Grace, and others are still questioning the sale of the building.
Her dad, Fu, worked for almost 20 years as a general labourer for B.C. Ferries, cleaning cafeterias and loading luggage for walk-on passengers on longer routes. They are asking what the bigger picture means for seniors like him, and for others without pensions, who have been living in the area for a long time.
“Even if my dad can stay in the building, why can’t it be kept as a care home for Chinese seniors,” said Lam.
That would mean Grace would continue a long-standing offering that provides Chinese meals, staff who speak Cantonese, and programming that is tied to Chinatown’s businesses and cultural institutions, all things that are key to her dad and other seniors thriving, she said.
“They need to maintain some staff and hire for continuity of programming,” said Lam’s cousin Catherine Eang. “It’s a place of 70 of them. All seniors like continuity.”
“There is a distinct need and demand for more, not less culturally-responsive housing for Chinese seniors in the (area),” said Michael Tan, co-chair of the Vancouver Chinatown Legacy Stewardship Group, which was appointed by the City of Vancouver.
“The seniors are the fabric of what makes Chinatown a community,” said Tan, adding they depend on the shops and services of the area as much as the future of the neighbourhood, as one with historic and working-class roots, depends on them and their families to support it.