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Calling Ts’i’ts’uwatel Lelum home

Nonah Pite, a resident of Ts’i’ts’uwatul Lelum, Cowichan’s affordable Aboriginal elders housing complex on Allenby Road, takes a break after speaking at the assisted-development’s official grand opening Dec. 10. - Ashley Degraaf
Nonah Pite, a resident of Ts’i’ts’uwatul Lelum, Cowichan’s affordable Aboriginal elders housing complex on Allenby Road, takes a break after speaking at the assisted-development’s official grand opening Dec. 10.
— image credit: Ashley Degraaf

Cowichan’s Keith Johnny is exactly where he wants to be.

The former Cowichan Tribes street person has found a warm and welcoming environment he now calls home, at the Ts’i’ts’uwatel Lelum Aboriginal elders housing complex located on Allenby Road.

Although the four-storey building with 46 one-bedroom apartments and four two bedroom rooms was open for business about a year ago, the folks behind its creation celebrated its official grand opening Dec. 10.

The development, funded by governments of Canada and British Columbia as well as several community partnerships, including Island Health also features several amenities including a reception area, a dining room, crafts room, hair salon, TV room, lounge and kitchen and food prep areas.

“Welcome to my house, our house,” said Johnny during opening ceremony speeches among several dignitaries including M’akola Housing Society CEO Kevin Albers, new Cowichan Tribes Chief Chip Seymour, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliations John Rustad, CMHC BC’s Tom Siems, Duncan Mayor Phil Kent, and Island Health board chair Don Hubbard.

“I have a voice now and I can now reach out for help again,” Johnny said.

Through an amendment to the Canada - British Columbia Affordable Housing Agreement, the feds and provincial government contributed $13.5 million towards the project.

The total cost of the development, which has been in the works for the past 10 years, was approximately $14.7 million.

Island Health, along with the governments foots the bill for the facility’s operational costs, which are estimated to be about $1.3 million annually.

“Island Health recognizes that people want to live as independently as possible, for as long as possible in their own communities with respect for their cultures,” said Island Health’s Don Hubbard. “Island Health is proud of its collaboration with the M’akola Housing Society and other partners in the Ts’i’ts’uwatul Lelum to ensure culturally responsible supports to elders.”

Established in 1984, the M’akola Housing Society is a non-profit organization which operates over 1,300 Aboriginal affordable housing units, primarily for Aboriginal people.

The society owns and manages the Allenby Road elders facility.

“For nearly 30 years, M’akola Housing Society has been a committed Aboriginal affordable housing provider on Vancouver Island,” said its CEO Kevin Albers at the opening.

“We are pleased to bring our years of experience to support the elders and seniors who reside at Ts’i’ts’uwatel Lelum and we are thankful for the collaborative partnerships with Cowichan Tribes, our governments and community partners that made this building possible.”

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