Vermilion Court has operated as the town's only assisted-living facility since for 16 years. Spotlight file photo

Princeton seniors complex eliminating services beginning this week

Funding for Vermilion Court, as promised by the NDP during the election, has yet to come through

The future is still uncertain for 17 Princeton seniors living in apartments at Vermilion Court, a facility that is now ramping down its programs.

In October Vermilion Court’s non-profit operator Princeton District and Community Social Services (PDCSS) announced it would cancel hospitality services – meals, laundry, housekeeping and security – on Dec. 15. Citing a lack of funds, it said Vermilion Court would lose its designation as an assisted living facility and provide only an independent living option.

“It’s something we tried to sustain for many years,” said PDCSS board chair Allan McGowan in an interview with The Spotlight Wednesday Dec. 2. “We continue to persevere but we can only do so much. Now Interior Health (IH), BC Housing and the government in general have to understand what the predicament is.”

Just before BC voters went to the polls Oct. 24, NDP leader and now premier John Horgan, along with Roly Russell, Boundary-Similkameen NDP candidate and now MLA, promised to make funds available for the struggling PDCSS.

“We were given hope all the way along prior to the election,” said McGowan.

Russell issued a release pledging his support, and Horgan met with Princeton Mayor Spencer Coyne and committed to funding Vermilion Court.

In an interview Thursday Dec. 3, Russell said fulfilling that promise remains his number one priority from across the riding.

“I have been working with both the ministry responsible for housing and the ministry responsible for health to help build a solution. Unfortunately I don’t have it yet,” he said.

“I hope we will have some positive news within the week, but I can’t guarantee that.”

READ MORE: Princeton’s seniors residence faces sharp cutbacks to services

Vermilion Court seniors pay 30 per cent of their income towards rent, and that amount is subsidized by BC Housing. IH provides health care and support to the residents.

However the hospitality services now being eliminated have never been funded through a grant stream. Residents were paying 40 per cent of their income to receive the services, but that amounts to less than half of the cost of delivery, according to McGowan.

PDCSS has been drawing on other pools of money to keep the programs going, but it’s no longer a sustainable option, he continued.

“Our benefactors need to belly up to the bar.”

Hospitality services cost the society $11,000 a month.

The society’s financial situation was worsened in 2020 because of COVID, and the protocols it requires. As well, earlier in the year PDCSS employees unionized.

“The net result was a substantial increase in salaries and benefits.”

Coyne has been active in trying to find a solution, and was to meet with PDCSS again Thursday Dec. 3.

“We are not giving up,” said Coyne, calling an assisted living facility in Princeton a “vital” need.

The transition away from hospitality services begins this week at Vermilion Court.

McGowan said IH has agreed to provide residents with frozen meals, the same ones served to patients at Princeton General Hospital, for one month.

He added the response from residents has been, for the most part, “very well tempered.”

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