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Elders for Native and non-Natives alike

Larry George dances Tuesday during the official groundbreaking for the four-storey, 52,000-square-foot Cowichan Elders and Persons with Disabilities Assisted Living Project at the former Mound site in downtown Duncan. - Peter W. Rusland
Larry George dances Tuesday during the official groundbreaking for the four-storey, 52,000-square-foot Cowichan Elders and Persons with Disabilities Assisted Living Project at the former Mound site in downtown Duncan.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

A breeze ruffles the green blanket draped across the shoulders of former chief Philomena Alphonse while she blesses Tribes land — formerly the Mound — Tuesday for a $15.4-million seniors-housing project.

“We have to remember who we are and our relatives’ spiritual guidance on this development,” she said softly.

Ground was broken for the four-storey, 52,000-square-foot Cowichan Elders and Persons with Disabilities Assisted Living Project due for completion by March 2012.

Alphonse — who has applied for a unit at the Elders project — stressed its 50 units of affordable apartments are for all people, not just Tribes members.

Cowichan Elders — being built to LEED green standards — offers 46 one-bedroom units, and four two-bedroom apartments wrapped around carver Harold Joe’s 40-foot lobby totem pole.

M’akola Housing will manage and run the complex being built by B.C. Housing for $14.2 million.

BCH is also giving an $877,000 annual operating subsidy.

The Vancouver Island Health Authority is adding $487,000 in annual funding for hospitality services, while Tribes has provided the $1.2-million site.

VIHA staff will determine which applicants gain suites at Elders.

“Qualification is all health related,” said project manager Tinny Lalli.

“This has been a dream and a long-time happening,” noted drummer Ray Peter who, with Ron George, led Tzinquaw dancers Larry George and Lawrence (Trout) Joe performed prayer and victory dances.

Duncan Mayor Phil Kent said Cowichan Elders would allow folks in their golden years “to live in a way that meets their needs and aspirations.”

Services include two Aboriginal and western food meals daily, housekeeping, an Aboriginal smudge room for ceremonies, theatre and craft room, solar and geo-thermal heating features, lounge areas, emergency call service, personal care services, and more.

Monthly fees are 70 per cent of after-tax household income.

“This project is looking out for the most vulnerable in our society,” said Chief Lydia Hwitsum.

“This is another example of how we can all work together.”

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