As of Wednesday, Aug. 31 residents living in Silver City Gardens will no longer receive a once-daily prepared meal or once-weekly housekeeping services.
Owned and operated by the Canadian Mental Health Association, (CMHA) Kootenay branch, the 34-unit East Trail apartment building is described as an “independent living subsidized rental housing complex with supports (supportive living) for low income seniors (age 55 +) and people with disabilities.”
The Trail Times was contacted by a family member worried about the impact these service losses will have on the tenants.
“I wanted to speak up about something in Trail that’s going to have an effect on a lot of vulnerable seniors in town,” the person said.
“Many of the building’s residents are either physically disabled or mentally handicapped and unable to clean or cook for themselves, my own mother included.
“Now they and their families are being forced to either somehow come up with the money to pay privately for cleaning/meal preparation services, or find housing elsewhere — housing that, to be frank, does not exist. Ultimately, many of these people who would much rather be living independently are going to end up in long-term care facilities because of this,” he asks.
”Who is going to advocate for them?”
He questioned why, during a housing crisis, CMHA has stopped these services.
“Why is it happening so quietly right under their noses?” he queried. “What’s going to happen to the residents who have nowhere else to go?”
For answers, the Times contacted Carey Fraser, executive director for CMHA Kootenays, operating from her office in Cranbrook.
Fraser did confirm one take out meal per day, once a week light housekeeping and an emergency medical button are services that stopped Aug. 31.
She explained, however, that there was no cut to funding that lead to the stopping of these particular services.
Rather, these “hospitality services” were paid for through tenant fees.
So, what changed?
“The Silver City Gardens tenant demographics have changed significantly over the past years with a younger senior population,” Fraser told the Times. “The requirements to live at Silver City Gardens is seniors and those with disabilities 55+,” she noted.
“The newer population is not interested in hospitality.”
Moreover, Fraser clarified that the decision to stop providing hospitality services was made based on several contributing factors.
Silver City Gardens requires a full-time and part-time cook, a full-time housekeeper and casual staff. There is also food, kitchen and laundry/housekeeping supplies, small and large equipment as well as kitchen maintenance and repair costs.
“In our 2022 rent/hospitality annual review several tenants expressed concerns regarding the amount they were paying for hospitality services and questioned why these services were mandatory,” she continued.
“The cost of hospitality was quite low considering the cost to provide the services.”
Since the building first opened in 2004, the kitchen has functioned will with regular and consistent maintenance. However, just within this last month, Fraser said the ice machine broke down and needs replacement, the hot server requires maintenance, the garborator needs replacement, the industrial dishwasher needs repair and the grease trap needs replacement.
“These are all recent unforeseen significant costs,” she said.
Another factor Fraser mentioned is that there were four vacancies over the past several months that could not be filled because all applicants who were offered an apartment did not want hospitality and declined the offer expressing they can cook and clean for themselves. (Each unit has a full kitchen.)
“All apartments will be full Sept. 1/22 due to the reduction of hospitality service changes,” Fraser explained. “There were tenants in the process of moving out because they did not want the hospitality services which would result in more vacancies.
“The announcement was made just prior to moves and these tenants have now decided to stay.”
As far as the Medical Response System, Fraser says it was not being used by the majority of the tenants despite paying for the system as part of the hospitality fees. Tenants that did use an emergency button paid for an alternate system as Silver City Gardens services did not have a “fall detect” option. Of the 35 tenants present as of Sept. 1, Fraser said 27 do not want an emergency response button.
“Overall, tenants are able to make choices of what services they do want, whether that be housekeeping, meals or emergency response systems,” she said. “They will have the cost saved from the hospitality fee to have what suits them best.”
Regarding the meal cut, Fraser says since COVID hit in 2020, these noon time meals were no longer served in the dining room. Instead, the meals were delivered to the tenant’s room.
To check that no tenant goes without a meal, Fraser says the manager at Silver City Gardens is meeting with each tenant on a regular basis, and will continue to do so, to ensure there is no gaps in tenant supports.
“She has also provided each tenant with resource information (“Closing the Gaps in Seniors’ Care” guide) and has met with tenants along with community supports and families to ensure plans are in place,” Fraser said.
“Currently, all tenants have appropriate supports and a plan in place for housekeeping and meals.”
Regarding the housekeeping service loss, Fraser says each tenant has had a significant decrease in monthly costs to live at Silver City Gardens without the hospitality costs.
“There are no concerns at all from any of the tenants or their supports that they will not be able to afford support with housekeeping,” she said. “There is a significant number of tenants that will do their own housekeeping with no issues. There was already tenants that did not use the housekeeping service.”
Finally, the Times asked if there would be changes to the tenant demographic in the future as a result of these changes.
“No, there will not be any changes as this has always been meant for seniors and those with disabilities 55+ that can direct their own care and live independently with supports if required,” she replied.
“Home Health and Mental Health and other community supports will continue to support the tenants as required until such time they no longer can live independently and safely at Silver City Gardens. It is at that time that the tenant would be reassessed for higher level care just as they would in any other community independent housing situation.”
Historically, Silver City Garden tenants paid 30 per cent of their annual income for their units plus a monthly charge for hospitality services and eligible residents can access services provided by Interior Health. The Times could not confirm how much the hospitality monthly charge was by press time.
About the CMHA
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is one of the oldest national, charitable organizations in Canada and the oldest national mental health charity. CMHA was founded in 1918 by Dr. Clarence M. Hincks, Dr. Charles K. Clarke, and Clifford W. Beers as the Canadian National Committee for “Mental Hygiene.”
The original goals of the organization centred around war recruits, mental examination of post-war immigrants, prevention, and support for adequate facilities and care for the treatment of mental illness.
CMHA describes itself as uniquely positioned in Canada as a charity that brings together experience and expertise on community-based mental health promotion and support for people with mental illnesses. The association says it is unique in its approach and also in its ability to speak to a broad range of issues surrounding mental health and mental illness.
CMHA for the Kootenays was incorporated on April 18, 1994 serving Cranbrook and area. Over the years, the association has grown and expanded services across the Kootenays.
“We are confident the tenants will benefit from having more choices in the independent housing environment that has existed at Silver City Gardens for many years,” Fraser said.