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Phase 1 of Ebenezer project unveiled

Lori Penner

The 24/7 program and future goals were a large part of the agenda for Ebenezer Home's annual general meeting Oct. 18.

Nearly 100 guests, including board members and church representatives were given an update on operations at the facility, and a vision for its growth.

Board chair David Wiebe said it's been a great year for Ebenezer, with 100 per cent occupancy in the apartments. "The 24/7 program has 13 clients and we have waiting lists for the program and for independent living suites."

Wiebe recalled how the program began with a challenge from church stakeholders in 2007 to come up with a plan to look after individuals in the community who could no longer live independently, but did not need to be in the hospital or care home.

Thus, 24/7 with safety, security and supervision came into being. It started in August, 2008 with three clients, after raising $450,000 to support the three year pilot project,

"After three years, the program is doing exactly what it was intended to do: keep seniors out of the care home and hospitals longer," Wiebe said.

The board continued to talk to the RHA about long term funding for the program. In December of 2010, Minister of Housing Kerri Irvin-Ross came to Altona on her own specifically to see the program firsthand. In May of 2011, the Ebenezer board along with the RHA met with Minister of Health Theresa Oswald.

"The discussions were very positive and she very quickly could see that while we were applying for 13 clients - the need was already there for the entire building of 23 suites. Her final question to us was, 'What is the downside if funding is not approved for this program?'" Their answer was simple - it would be a crisis for clients and their families, as well as the local hospital.

Last July, the board received the good news that they would get funding for the original 13 clients as requested, with further additional funding to be negotiated.

"This was and is a huge win for our community and area - bigger probably than many people realize. This is the only program of its kind in Manitoba!" Wiebe said.

He added that while there is a waiting list now for the 24/7 program, it's important to note that current residents will not be asked to relocate.

With long term funding for 24/7 in place, the board pursued another plan that would give Ebenezer room to grow for the next 30 years and beyond. They've purchased two properties adjacent to Ebenezer to be developed into apartment buildings with independent living and services.

The expansion plan was presented to stakeholders at last week's AGM.

Wes Friesen, chair of the Futures committee presented a proposal of the new complex facing 10th Ave. to be built in multiple phases.

The four-storey property will consist of a mix of 600 sq. ft, one bedroom suites up to 900 sq. ft. two bedroom suites, as well as a new commercial kitchen, administration area and common space.

The facility will offer a 24/7 meal program, as well as security and other services. Rent will range from $800 to $1,200 a month.

Phase 1 will cost an estimated $5-7 million. Wiebe says some of the funding will come locally, along with some provincial funding.

The board is asking for feedback from the stakeholders and the community on the new plans, and is also asking for suggestions on a new name.

"We'll be changing the name of Ebenezer to better reflect the 21st century," Wiebe says.

"We want it represented as more than just a place to spend a phase of life, but also as a place that offers the comforts of home."

The hope is to begin Phase 1 in 2012, to commemorate Ebenezer Home's 50th anniversary.