Delays explained at town hall for displaced seniors in Hay River

·2 min read
Sandra Patterson Lester, the vice chair of the Hay River Seniors Society, said a town hall meeting this week helped her understand why it's taking so long for residents of a seniors complex to move back in. (Natalie Pressman/CBC - image credit)
Sandra Patterson Lester, the vice chair of the Hay River Seniors Society, said a town hall meeting this week helped her understand why it's taking so long for residents of a seniors complex to move back in. (Natalie Pressman/CBC - image credit)

The vice chair of the Hay River Seniors Society says she has a better understanding of why it's taking so long for residents to move back into the Whispering Willows seniors complex after a town hall meeting this week.

"All of the kitchen cabinets, the lower kitchen cabinets, were destroyed in the flood," said Sandra Patterson Lester. At the Thursday meeting, organized by Housing N.W.T., Patterson Lester was told new cabinets had been ordered and were being built locally.

"They're done here in Enterprise, and it's wonderful that a local business is getting to do it. But it just takes time," she said.

Whispering Willows was one of many buildings damaged by flooding in Hay River in May. The water forced an unprecedented evacuation of the second-largest town in the Northwest Territories, and also caused major damage to roads and other infrastructure.

Housing N.W.T. spokesperson Jeanne Yurris told CBC News in an emailed statement earlier this week that restoration work at the complex is still going on. She said it includes the "repair and commissioning of building systems" as well as removing and replacing fixtures and doing finishing work.

Yurris said the restoration was expected to be done in November.

That same message was shared with the building's residents on Thursday. Housing N.W.T. has said it's been keeping residents updated on the situation but before the meeting, Patterson Lester said, residents didn't know when they'd be allowed back.

"At least they've been given a time frame," she said.

Emma Grunwald/CBC
Emma Grunwald/CBC

Residents have also been frustrated, she said, because some live on the second floor of the building and believe their units to be unscathed.

"It's frustrating to know your home is sitting there, intact, and you can't go back in."

But, Patterson Lester pointed out, systems that serve both floods of the seniors complex — like plumbing, heating, the elevator and the solar panels — would have needed to be checked out and repaired too.

She also said that the territorial government has done a good job looking after the complex's displaced residents — some have gone to stay with family, and others have temporarily ended up in local hotels.

Patterson Lester said most of the residents are in Hay River and are still getting together for coffee and maintaining a sense of their community.