An affordable housing complex for 2SLGBTQ+ seniors — the first of its kind in Canada — is expected to make a huge difference for its residents in their golden years.
Winnipeg’s Rainbow Resource Centre, in partnership with the Westminster Housing Society, is developing the 21-unit facility, which should see its first residents moving in around the end of May 2024.
The centre’s executive director, Noreen Mian, told Global Winnipeg the housing is just one aspect of a larger plan.
“Rainbow Resource Centre has moved onto this property, and we are going to build a campus of queer services surrounding the seniors’ complex, so the folks who are living on site are supported and living in community and aging in place.
“What we are starting to hear from some of our folks was that they were scared to enter long-term care or congregate living. Stereotypes still exist, and the health-care system hasn’t necessarily caught up in terms of changes, and people are fearful that they won’t receive the right level of care — that they won’t be supported by their peers.”
Mian said the broader community services project has a timeline of two to five years, but the housing itself will be the first element to be completed — and it’s an important one, given the history many of its future residents have in working to change the conversation around 2SLGBTQ+ rights.
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“This is the generation who fought for equality in the ’70s and ’80s and now are still facing discrimination at this point in their life — they’ve been fighting all of their lives.”
Seniors’ advocate Mel Byer, who hopes to live in the new facility, is a member of that generation, and says the project is a step in the right direction.
“It makes all kinds of difference. Feeling safe and feeling comfortable where you are gives you confidence, it just makes life so much easier. You can do what you need to do when you need to do it. It’s amazing,” Byer said.
“It’s really a great idea. Being able to be among others who are like me. Having the opportunity to just be who we are.
“Many of us, and especially my generation, we had problems coming out. I did not come out until I was in my 50s — and we don’t want to have to go back into the closet.”
Byer said the model is something he’d like to see established across Canada, as there’s a need in cities beyond Winnipeg.
“It’s important to live your life authentically, and that’ll give us the opportunity,” he said.
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