Increasing utility rates may lead to the closure of senior centers in Winnipeg

Increasing utility rates may lead to the closure of senior centers in Winnipeg, Iryna Chyrkova

Al Durand, president of the Dufferin Seniors Centre, is seriously concerned about the situation in the city for not-for-profits.

When it the time came to extend the lease agreement for the premises in which his organization is located, he received a letter in which the city announced new conditions. Previously, the centre paid only $265 per year for the use of the building, and the city at the same time took upon itself the payment of utility costs. Under the new agreement, the centre has to pay Winnipeg $2,000 per month to cover operating expenses.

This not-for-profit cannot afford to pay such money. "If they stick with those prices we won't be able to stay open," said Durand.

He noted that for many seniors in Winnipeg, the Dufferin Seniors Centre and similar organizations remain the only place where they can go and socialize with other people. Here they play bingo, dance, make perogy and, most importantly, they do not remain alone. “They also exercise which is for their health basically, and each other’s company. And to some of them, they wouldn't have anywhere else to go," said Durand.

The current situation is caused by the fact that the city intends to reduce the operating costs of maintaining not-for-profits that operate in its buildings. According to the law, such organizations may not receive additional benefits, including utility costs, if they get a break on rent. There are 85 such groups in the city at the moment.

Brian Mayes, property and development chair of Winnipeg, stated that the city does not intend to throw these organizations on the street. "No one's getting an eviction notice -- we're going to have to -- at least not without a lot of talk first," said Mayes. He added that city officials will hold meetings with representatives of not-for-profits to find out their opportunities and come to a consensus. He sees a possible way out of the situation in combining the work of several groups in one building and thereby reducing their costs.

Al Durand said that the only source of income for his centre is selling of perogy, made by his wards. According to him, the city agreed to lower the payment to $1,200 per month, but his organization will only be able to pay out about $2,000 per year.

The executive director of Manitoba Association of Senior Centres Connie Newman announced an intention to fight for the preservation of all existing not-for-profits for seniors in Winnipeg. "If your utilities cost went up $2,000 a month, you'd probably be homeless right now," said Newman.

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Dufferin Seniors Centre not-for-profits Manitoba Association of Senior Centres
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