New housing for AISH recipients opens in Ponoka

Having a home is something vitally important in order to live a healthy life. For people in Alberta who are on Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) maintaining a home with $1,088 per month can be difficult.

  • Aug. 13, 2008 1:00 p.m.

Having a home is something vitally important in order to live a healthy life. For people in Alberta who are on Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) maintaining a home with $1,088 per month can be difficult. However, North Bridge Suites offers 23 AISH recipients a chance to maintain their own home. The complex opened on Aug. 6 and is located at 5007 and 5009-53rd Ave. in Ponoka. The 23 studio or bachelor units are rented at below market value at less than $400 per month, water is including and other utilities will cost residents approximately $50 per month.

Margaret Scott moved into her bachelor unit in June, she is on AISH because she has some brain damage and also a slight speech impediment. She likes the suite because it is easy to live, clean, pleasant and it is affordable.

“It’s very nice and quiet,” said Scott. “It’s a lovely place to live. I like the location, I’m almost 64 and I don’t want to walk too far. It’s awesome and it can’t get much better.”

She furnished the suite herself and has a dresser, bed, kitchen, eating area and a little television.

The suites are separated by two 2×4 walls with a one-inch air space and a soundproofing board between these walls. One resident even noted that his first night there was his first good night sleep in a very long time. Each suite is 325 square feet, which includes a fridge, stove, bathroom and a sitting area that fits a single bed.

Ponoka residents Colin Lowden and Mary Saunders developed the complex and their goal was to provide adequate affordable housing for AISH recipients in totally self-contained suites.

They defined adequate as safe, clean, warm, dry, secure and easy to maintain and furnish.

Lowden thought that AISH recipients are in desperate need of affordable housing and it was focused and designed for them.

“It means a lot to people. It gives them everything they need to live a comfortable life and it is safe and secure,” says Lowden. “It’s a community that has come on its own but because of the single suites they can be apart of it or not.”

Safety was key in the design as there are no hallways and all of the doorways open into a European style park area between the two buildings. There is a central sidewalk with branches to each side and dusk to dawn pot lamps to ensure continued safety.

Lowden originally came up with the idea in two stages. He traveled a lot for business and stayed at a hotel called Extended Stay. The rooms were similar to the rooms now at North Bridge. He was also speaking with his handyman, Gerald Harper, who is also on AISH. He told Lowden that for the places that AISH recipients could afford they were very poor living conditions and there were not a lot of places for AISH recipients to live.

“North Bridge is a place they can afford. You can’t get healthy if you are living in a depressing spot,” said Harper. “But a place like this it’s great.”

Lowden then went to work he did some research into AISH recipients and found out that 90 per cent are single with 40 per cent with mental disabilities, 40 per cent with physical disabilities and 20 per cent was cognitive. He was able to build the complex in partnership with the Community Mental Health Services, the Ponoka Rising Sun Clubhouse Society, Rimoka Housing Foundation and private enterprise. He also received $1.4 million from the provincial and federal governments and each unit was built for less than $65,000.

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