DSB looking at Little Current for new seniors’ housing building

A feasibility study is currently underway for this Park Street property in Little Current which could be home to a new seniors’ housing development. photo by Alicia McCutcheon

LITTLE CURRENT – Last week, Northeast Town council gave its blessing to the Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board (DSB) to begin a feasibility study that will consider the creation of a senior-specific housing build on the Park Street property located directly behind its Channelview Apartments in Little Current.

At a DSB board meeting late last year, DSB CAO Fern Dominelli told the board that they would soon have a decision to make in regards to which community would see a new build—Espanola or Little Current—as per the $656,700 in provincial funds received to carry out such a project. As Espanola has a higher wait list for clients, this community was first explored, but Mr. Dominelli told The Expositor it was determined that the town’s sewer capacity could not handle such a build and so Little Current was next on the list.

With a wait list of 22 senior citizens in Little Current alone (that number figures in the 40 range when counting all of Manitoulin), the DSB set its sights on Little Current, having already had conversations with the municipality about the parcel of land that was gifted to them by the late Lily Fielding and family in 2016. That same year, the Northeast Town put out a request for expressions of interest for the 2.94-acre parcel of land, specifically for seniors’ housing.

Mr. Dominelli said the DSB has hired Housing Services Corporation to oversee the feasibility and environmental studies and that he is hoping for a tight turnaround for the feasibility study as time is of the essence with the provincial funds. The DSB has at its disposal $1.2 million which includes the $656,700 plus the revenue incurred from the sale of some of its Espanola properties.

“It all comes down to what we can afford,” Mr. Dominelli replied when asked what form the housing units might take, with assurances that it would be seniors’ housing.

Mr. Dominelli has been part of the conversation surrounding the community’s ask for assisted living units in Little Current since 2016 and said he has approached the Northeast Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) about funds for the project. He explained that he was told ‘no’ by the LHIN, noting that the health organization funds bodies rather than bricks and mortar when it comes to assisted living, but he also said it was something the DSB would like to see happen.

The North East LHIN media team confirmed with The Expositor that senior LHIN staff met with the DSB just before Christmas to hear about funding the DSB has proposed to put towards housing and to explain what community support services are available to all residents who live on Manitoulin Island.

“When we talk about ‘assisted living’ it’s important to recognize that assisted living is for people—namely frail, elderly or what’s also known as ‘high risk seniors’—not for buildings,” the media team added. “By this we mean that a building can’t offer assisted living to all its residents, because to qualify, a person has to be assessed and found eligible by a home and community care co-ordinator. Assisted living involves both scheduled and unscheduled visits, in contrast to home care which offers only scheduled visits.”

“Assisted living can be mobile, such as delivered to people in their homes, or through a campus model, such as in a seniors’ apartment building,” the media team continued. “Mainly it’s about bringing personal support, through both scheduled and unscheduled visits, to where a person lives.”

“Currently the VON (Victorian Order of Nurses) is funded to deliver assisted living care to 10 people living on Manitoulin Island and Noojmowin Teg Health Centre is funded to deliver assisted living care to 10 people living in First Nation communities on Manitoulin Island. This care would all be considered mobile assisted living,” the media team added.

When asked how assisted living funds flow, the media team explained, “Assisted living funds flow through a Multi-Sector Accountability Agreement (M-SAA) to an approved home and community care provider.”

Mr. Dominelli said that should the build occur as an assisted living facility, the proper supports need to be in place. Otherwise, as a landlord, the DSB can only have people that can live independently. If they can’t live independently, it’s grounds for eviction, “and nobody wants to see that happen,” he added.

Northeast Town Mayor Al MacNevin said even preliminarily, “it’s good news in terms of housing for seniors,” but admitted to having no idea of what the scope of the project is at this stage.