Sourcing funding for a big community project is not for the faint of heart, says the chair of a local group working towards building a community care facility in O’Leary.
Fortunately, despite a few stumbling blocks, the Community Seniors Co-operative Ltd (CSCL) has gained momentum with the hiring of a project manager.
For the next six months, Jordan MacDonald will be conducting public outreach throughout central West Prince area by giving presentations to community organizations interested in learning more about the project, hosting a public information session and will set up a booth at the O’Leary Farmers Co-op.
“We want to engage the membership that exists and maybe grow the membership of the co-operative a little bit more as well as complete funding applications,” said Mr MacDonald about his responsibilities.
To date, the CSCL currently has over 125 members.
Mr MacDonald was hired through the Work Experience Program offered by Skills PEI and will be working from the Community Seniors Co-operative Ltd office in the O’Leary Town Complex.
The CSCL is governed by a voluntary board of directors and having a project manager will help the co-operative immeasurable, said CSCL Chair Sally Lockhart.
“We had identified for awhile, at some point, we would need a project manager and we wanted to be at the point there would be enough work for a project manager and luckily we are now at that point,” she explained.
Initially the hope was the CSCL would fund the facility through a partnership with the federal and provincial governments and themselves, with each paying about a third of the overall cost for the project.
“When push came to shove last spring, when federal and provincial infrastructure money was finally announced and the criteria was there, it definitely became clear we weren’t going to get a third of our money that way and the province had been saying for quite awhile that they couldn’t see any programs we can take advantage of,” said Ms Lockhart.
Admittedly the news at first was discouraging for the co-operative.
“A few of us have been in this for four years, so it was just another hurdle,” said Ms Lockhart. “We firmly believe we need services for seniors in this area. Seniors have told us they will stay if the housing options are there.”
In 2015, seniors in the O’Leary area were surveyed with over 100 surveys completed. The survey indicated there was support for a new community care facility being built in O’Leary. Since incorporating in 2017, the CSCL has secured land for the project, explored funding options, created a business plan, had conceptual drawings created and now have hired a project manager.
Since the disappointing news in the spring, the CSCL have become aware of other funding options they hope will fund the approximately $4 million project.
The mayor of O’Leary Eric Gavin made the co-operative aware of new funding being offered through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) he thought the group could be eligible for.
“Since then we have been on a roll trying to get all our ducks lined up and our business plan rewritten to fit this new criteria,” said Ms Lockhart.
The co-operative has been working towards designing a facility that will now incorporate 35 community care units and 15 affordable seniors’ apartments. The funding through CMHC requires that 30 per cent of the units at the facility must be considered affordable housing. To update their business plan the CSCL received money from the Community Capacity Fund, which has both provincial and federal partners.
“Ironically, in our original survey, are the 110 people said if they had to move in the next 10 years, an affordable apartment would be a beginning step for them,” said Ms Lockhart. “It was quite clear they wanted that as well as a modern community care facility.”
Another task given to Mr MacDonald is explaining to those looking for affordable housing how to apply to the provincial Housing Registry. The registry encourages developers and municipalities to apply for provincial funding to build necessary housing units.
“In order for them (the province) to fund the construction of these new facilities or new apartments, they have to at least see a waiting list of people going into them,” explained Mr MacDonald.
Currently the CSCL is working to complete the CMHC funding application as well as apply for funding through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. They are also applying for funds offered through the Canadian Mental Health Association - PEI Division.
While the application process for some of the funding the co-operative is applying for does take time, the CSCL is feeling encouraged.
“For the first time, from these funders we’ve been talking to, they’re not saying no,” said Ms Lockhart.