How a Kamloops housing project is helping vulnerable seniors

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KAMLOOPS - A new housing initiative is aiming to protect one of the city's most vulnerable populations.

It's called a safe suite. Last week, ASK Wellness and the Canadian Mental Health Association announced the housing project which can help a senior who's being exploited either financially or physically.

Christa Mullaly with the Canadian Mental Health Association's Kamloops branch told a community safety meeting last week the project is one safe apartment suite at an undisclosed location in the city.

B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie says an older adult safe suite is an important project to have in major cities, many of which around the province have at least one.

"Basically, a safe suite is for a person fleeing a situation. That situation could be physical abuse, could be emotional abuse," Mackenzie says. "The idea is, you're going into a place that’s not only safe but you potentially run out with just the clothes on your back.”

The safe suite allows an older adult, anyone over the age of 60, to stay for up to two months rent-free if they're fleeing a dangerous situation and have nowhere else to go.

The unit will come with everything they need to get by until they can get back on their feet.

Mackenzie says in 2017 there were more than 1,700 calls across the province to the senior abuse and information line. She believes not enough seniors or their families are aware of the hotline, which runs 12 hours per day, seven days per week.

Abuse or exploitation against seniors can sometimes be complicated, Mackenzie says, especially if the person abusing them is helping with things like errands, driving and groceries.

"For seniors, it’s a slightly more unique circumstance because the senior could be relying on the person who's abusing them to maintain their independence," she says.

Either way, Mackenzie says it's important for seniors and their loved ones to do research, even if they're not currently at risk. Once it's at the point where a senior needs help, it can be overwhelming for them to try and figure out the best resources to use.

"We find that inevitably, on any number of things, some seniors know everything that’s out there and others know nothing," she says. "Just because somebody's a senior doesn’t mean they may not need help in fleeing a difficult situation.”

For more information on the Kamloops safe suite, contact ASK Wellness or the Canadian Mental Health Association.

For more resources offered to seniors in need in the province, go here.

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