Community is connection. It’s where the people we love live. It’s stopping in for a chat with a neighbour on a blustery day or calling on a friend to ask for—or offer—help. So, what happens if we are forced to leave our community as we age because there is nowhere suitable for us to live?
It’s a problem that Cathy Brown and her team at the Texada Island Non-Profit Senior’s Housing Society (TINSHS) are tackling.
“Most people on Texada Island live in their own houses, and most of those houses aren't really elder friendly,” Cathy explains. “There are lots of stairs, they’re on acreages, or they're in the trailer park.” In 2019 the small but determined group decided that they needed to look at how to develop more housing options for people with mobility problems.
“The more we looked into it, the more we discovered how great the need was on Texada. We had no idea that there were so few people who had places that were suitable.
“I've seen a lot of people I care about leave the island. They are perfectly healthy, but they just can't live in a house that's got too many stairs anymore. There's no place anywhere for anyone to rent, not just our seniors, our young people too.
“Everyone we know who’s been forced to leave the island [this way], they lose heart because they lose their community. It speaks to quality of life. As a community I think we can and should pull together.”
Over the past three years Cathy (TINSHS President) and her board have been doing a lot of groundwork to figure out what needs to be done.
In 2020 and 2021 Cathy, on behalf of the society, attended the leadership and governance training offered through First Credit Union’s Non-Profit Thriving series.
“All of the training that First Credit Union has put in front of us has been very helpful. Although I was a small-town postmaster for 11 years, I've never been in an organization of this sort. It has really helped me to appreciate structure and process. It’s wonderful to know that there are places that we can ask for help if we don't understand something. The information and assistance we have received has been key for us in putting together our plans, in the development of the organization, and the board itself.”
Today TINSHS is made up of a team of local people with diverse skills and backgrounds who bring valuable experience and expertise to the society. It has been exciting getting educated, Cathy says.
“We're very determined. And we're going slow with it because we want to make it happen the right way.”
First Credit Union also provided TINSHS with a $2500 donation in 2021 to support a strategic planning process, which has been a vital part of the development of the society and its plan, Cathy continues.
“The donation from First was helpful in hiring a part-time consultant to help us to organize our paperwork and look at applying for grants. And the strategic plan that we've been sponsored for has been key because it’s given us a document that explains the project clearly to funders and potential land donors.”
COVID and the isolation it necessitated has presented some challenges in moving the project forward, but as things open up again Cathy and her team are looking forward to getting out to the community to gather more ideas, feedback and community fundraisers. Their next step is to do a formal needs assessment as a follow-up to an informal survey, and a proper feasibility study. This will help them secure land for the project, and the funding they will need to build.
“Texadans are independent, so we need to make sure we're doing the right thing,” she says.
Getting back out into the community and talking to people about the project has been exciting. A number of local organizations, businesses and individuals have shown interest in and support for the initiative that is really encouraging.
“It’s nice to start to see us reconnecting,” Cathy smiles.