'We won't be able to stay open': senior centre struggles with new utility cost
Bingo, dancing and perogy-making are just some of the activities offered at the Dufferin Seniors Centre.
President Al Durand says it’s also a place for companionship.
“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.
Now the centre is worried about its future as its lease has come up for renewal. The not-for-profit says it pays the City of Winnipeg $265 dollars a year to operate in a city owned building. The city covers utility costs.
But last April as the lease was set for renewal, Durand says a letter arrived demanding $2,000 a month to cover operating expenses, like utilities.
"If they stick with those prices we won't be able to stay open," said Durand.
The city is in the process of getting its costs back for operating expenses from not-for-profits housed in its buildings. A 1990 city council policy states that groups that get a break on rent, like Dufferin Seniors Centre, can’t receive any other subsidies, including utilities. The city says there are 85 not-for-profits that fit this category.
Connie Newman, executive director, Manitoba Association of Senior Centres, says it’s been in contact with nine seniors groups scrambling to deal with the proposed hikes.
"If your utilities cost went up $2,000 dollars a month, you'd probably be homeless right now," said Newman.
Property and development chair Brian Mayes says the city doesn't want to throw not-for-profits onto the streets.
"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 says city officials will meet with the organizations to determine what they can and can't afford and what solutions are out there. Mayes says in some cases multiple groups may be able to consolidate into one building to save money.
"A lot of history here, lots of people affected, so work through it one by one," said Mayes.
Al Durand says his group is willing to pay more. He says the city has come down to $1,200 a month. With perogy sales as its only source of income, Durand says even that's too much.
"About a month ago we made them a counter offer of $2,000 a year, to help them out," said Durand.