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Help available for Prince George seniors struggling with housing

As housing and community navigator at the Prince George Council of Seniors Resource Centre, Wendy Curtis assists older adults to help them through their housing issues.
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A recent report highlighted the growing housing crisis for BC Seniors. Local seniors' housing navigator talks about what's happening here in Prince George.

Couch surfing, living in a van, going in and out of shelters.

These are some of the issues Wendy Curtis hears about when seniors in need come into the Prince George Council of Seniors Resource Centre for help.

As housing and community navigator, Curtis assists older adults to help them through their housing issues.

“There are shelters available, they can live with friends or family, some are coach surfing – I’ve got one fellow who is living in his van,” she said. “Some are in and out of shelters – but shelters are not where seniors want to be.”

But there’s a two-year wait list for subsidized housing, Curtis added.

“So most of the people are putting in applications and waiting,” she said. “Looking for suitable housing for low-income seniors right now is very difficult. There’s very low supply.”

A new report, Aging in Uncertainty: The Growing Housing Crisis for BC Seniors, highlights the critical issue of seniors struggling to secure affordable housing in the face of soaring living costs, stagnant government retirement incomes, and a shortage of affordable housing.

The report was released jointly by United Way British Columbia and a coalition of BC Non-Profit community-based seniors’ organizations on Wednesday for National Housing Day, to raise awareness about housing and homelessness across Canada.

As the senior population rises, and affordable housing options diminish in the province, there is an urgent need for multigovernmental and intersectoral collaboration to ensure that seniors have access to housing that is appropriate and affordable, the United Way said.

According to the report, B.C. seniors experience a high rate of financial hardship, with 15.2 per cent of seniors considered low income. In 2020, one in four seniors in B.C. had after-tax incomes below $21,800, almost $10,000 below the minimum wage.

The report lays out six critical goals and 16 specific recommendations to make housing more affordable and accessible for older adults.

The first three goals address the need for increased low-income rental housing stock in B.C. for all age groups, while the final three goals focus on the unique requirements of the senior population. These recommendations include augmenting the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER) subsidy, providing funding to non-profits delivering on-site tenant and social connection support for vulnerable seniors in low-income rental housing, expanding access to seniors' supportive and transitional housing, and enhancing mental health support for seniors.

Curtis said she can help people work through their application for the SAFER subsidy but there is about a three-month wait to get it and people in subsidized housing don't qualify.

To get help navigating housing issues contact Curtis at 250-564-5888 or hcn@pgcos.ca.