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Residents ‘cautiously optimistic’ after hearing home for mental illness will reopen after repairs

This story is part of Situation Critical, a series from CBC British Columbia reporting on the barriers people in this province face in accessing timely and appropriate health care.

A stylized phrase reading 'SITUATION CRITICAL', made to read like a red heartbeat monitor.

A B.C. assisted-living facility for people with serious mental illnesses is no longer facing permanent closure, following a CBC report on the concerns of the tight-knit group of friends who live there.

Residents of Lina’s Place in New Westminster say they learned the news at a meeting on Tuesday afternoon with representatives of Fraser Health and the Pioneer Community Living Association, which operates the facility.

They were told they would still have to move out temporarily while the home is closed for necessary repairs, but they will eventually be allowed to move back if they choose.

“We were cautiously optimistic. Yes, we won the battle, but there’s still a long way to go to get to the end,” resident Jeff MacPherson said.

In July, the 11 people who live at Lina’s Place were given notices saying the duplex would be shut down permanently in one year and then sold off by B.C. Housing “based on the need for a newer building and for funding for more choices in housing programs.”

Residents who’ve spoken with CBC said they consider each other family and fear being split up and moved out of New Westminster. They had been told that plans for their futures would be worked out individually before Lina’s Place closes in July 2023.

The plan now is to find alternative accommodations for everyone while the building is being assessed and repaired, and then they will all have first dibs on space in the house when it’s safe to return, Fraser Health spokesperson Dixon Tam wrote in an email.

He said there are “multiple building deficiencies at Lina’s Place that could negatively affect residents’ health,” but no one will lose their current services and supports.

“It is too soon to confirm a timeline on when Lina’s Place will be safe for residents to return,” Tam added.

No reason given for change in plans

MacPherson said that residents and staff have also asked for assurances in writing that they will be allowed to return to Lina’s Place, and they’re still looking for specifics on the problems with the house.

He added that his housemate Alison Chow spoke up at Tuesday’s meeting and asked, “Is this all happening because we went to the media?” 

According to MacPherson, nobody answered the question directly.

A young East Asian woman with glasses and long hair stands in front of a green hedge.
Alison Chow is one of 11 people who live in Lina’s Place, an assisted-living facility for people with mental illnesses in New Westminster, B.C. (Justine Boulin/CBC)

Fraser Health has yet to respond to requests for more details about the change in plans.

In the meantime, family members have filed a Freedom of Information request for an engineering report identifying the specific problems with the building and estimated costs for repairing them.

Before the decision was made to eventually reopen Lina’s Place, B.C. Housing has said the proceeds from selling the duplex would be reinvested into new services in the region.

The 21-year-old structure has more than quadrupled in value since it was purchased in 2002, according to B.C. Assessment records, and taken together, the two sides of the duplex have been assessed at about $2.6 million.

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