Seniors Services Society of BC
Seniors Services Society of BC is a non-profit organization located in New Westminster, BC, that connects adults age 60 and older living in BC communities to housing navigation services and supports to help them age well and thrive. As a leader in the seniors services sector, Seniors Services Society has successfully partnered with other housing and social services providers across the province to develop several innovative programs in response to the diverse needs of low-income seniors. One such program is the SHINE program (Seniors Housing Information and Navigation Ease).
The SHINE program, jointly funded by the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions and led by Seniors Services Society, is a province-wide initiative designed to facilitate timely access to and navigation of appropriate housing services and supports for seniors. Using a collaborative approach with partner organizations in New Westminster (Seniors Services Society), Vancouver (West End Seniors Network), Nanaimo (Nanaimo Family Life Association), and Kelowna (Seniors Outreach Services Society), SHINE connects seniors to support services in their region to enhance their ability to achieve and maintain stable housing and to improve their overall health and wellness. Through partnerships, SHINE has established core services in the following four areas:
1. Seniors Housing Navigators located within each partner organization screen and assess senior clients to identify barriers to accessing or maintaining stable housing, and provide advice and assistance navigating housing services that meet the clients’ unique needs.
2. Community Connectors located across the SHINE network aim to reduce isolation and increase social and service connections for seniors through linkages and referrals to local, community-based programs and education.
3. A Seniors Mental Health & Wellness Provincial Resource online directory and Provincial Seniors Housing Directory are available on Seniors Services Society’s website, with the goal of increasing accessibility of senior-specific housing and mental health and wellness information.
4. Strengthening Communities and Building Collaboration by contributing to research projects and developing new initiatives (e.g. online services and supports in response to the COVID-19 pandemic). Core objectives of SHINE include building a network of service providers addressing seniors’ housing and other service needs in BC and advocating for positive change and capacity-building in the sector.
Over the past 18 months, Seniors Services Society has developed Memoranda of Understanding with the West End Seniors Network in Vancouver, Nanaimo Family Life Association, and Seniors Outreach Services Society in Kelowna. A partnership with the BC Community Response Network has also been developed through the program’s Community Connector in response to elder abuse and neglect. An additional partnership is being developed with the Prince George Council of Seniors to expand the SHINE program into Northern BC. Taking a regional approach to partnership building allows each community agency to decide the exact supports or services that are most relevant to their unique contexts, priorities, population, challenges, successes, and goals.
One key partnership developed during the early stages of SHINE was between Seniors Services Society and Nanaimo Family Life Association. Nanaimo Family Life Association is a non-profit agency that offers community-based programs and services to individuals, couples, seniors, and youth in Nanaimo. For over 50 years, the organization has offered an array of programs and volunteer opportunities in an atmosphere of respect, inclusion and compassion. Nanaimo Family Life Association’s work with SHINE was recently featured in Nanaimo News Now: https://nanaimonewsnow.com/2020/12/16/new-pilot-program-helping-nanaimo-seniors-navigate-how-to-receive-assistance/.
Executive Director Deborah Hollins shared her thoughts bringing the SHINE program to their community:
“SHINE is working in our community because the need for older adults to find, secure and maintain appropriate housing is a growing concern in Nanaimo. The SHINE program alleviates some of the pressure that individuals face when having to navigate the often numerous agencies and programs in order to find what they need. In Nanaimo, the SHINE program is part of the Housing Coalition, working to end homelessness and address the systemic issues that are inherent to being unhoused. As we combine our efforts with other organizations in our community, we offer the particular speciality and expertise that engages and supports older adults as they face housing issues. This is crucial in any community that seeks to treat all of its citizens with dignity and respect. Our work with Seniors Services Society works well as both organizations are committed to providing supports, advocacy, and being active in the community so that services are accessible and relevant. We are deeply grateful for this partnership.”
Over the next 12 months, the Seniors Services Society and its partners aim to advance the program and evaluate outcomes to understand strengths and challenges and establish an evidence-based, long-term strategy for SHINE. Through an effective, interconnected network of seniors serving organizations across BC, housing information and navigation will become more accessible and available for seniors in the province, contributing to housing stability and aging in place.