Why We Exist
It all started at a community meeting many years ago. I remember that uncomfortable moment of silence, followed by the buzz after the public resignation of the board chair of my community association. I had never chaired a meeting in my life and here I was expected to bridge what can only be described as “The Great Divide.” Not knowing what to do, I took the chair, only to have a small but vocal group call for the resignation of the board. How was I to deal with a fractured board and a community under social pressure? But, there they were… my neighbours, real people passionate about their community… unexpected allies.
Amongst them, those unafraid to feel, dream and act, was Jack Long, a well-known architect, planner and community activist. Jack gave me the courage to trust the community, to give considerate thought and act with compassion.
The result, the community banded together to find their unique solutions to complex social issues. In dealing with prostitution… they decided to help women trapped in the lifestyle, while police enforced the law. In dealing with inflated property taxes… they banded together to help those who could lose their homes by launching a group appeal. I found that given the proper support, the community acted with empathy and creativity. Those were exciting and powerful times that confirmed the remarkable capacity of caring for each other in community life.
A few years later, in my role as a church group volunteer, I met real people facing homelessness, like the hard working Perrez family, who immigrated here for a better life… but were constantly confronted with making ends meet to keep an apartment that they could barely afford. Inspired by Jack’s strong belief in the power of ordinary people living in community, I turned to him to help. As always, he was eager to help, but sadly he passed away a few months later. The Jack Long foundation was founded to honour him and to harness Jack’s belief in the power of community. Our goal was to make affordable housing a part of the neighbourhood fabric, to develop process that addressed homelessness and marginalization from a community perspective. Inspired by Jack’s philosophy, and in his words we “develop within that community the capacity to plan for itself”.
We ran an experiment with one community, and it worked! A group of concerned people eagerly looked at the opportunities within their own community. They saw real people, not demographics. They saw Hazel who, at 80 years of age, would not find affordable housing within her community (that would meet her need for elder support). And they felt the loss when even one person was forced to leave because they could no longer afford to live there. They were able to see existing needs within their own community, and put a face to those desperately seeking the basic need for a home. THE RESULT: ELDERHOUSE, an innovative solution to ageing-in-place.
Naming the problem was not enough. We asked seniors themselves to help us develop a dignified, affordable, and respectful housing model, which allows them to age in their own neighbourhood. Why? Because we are serious about real solutions, and because real people tell us that studies & reports are not enough… real people need real homes. And real homes are supported by real communities.