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Overwhelming' response to Better at Home program

It's only a month old and the demand for the Better at Home program in Burnaby could soon surpass the funding available.

The Better at Home program provides help with simple day-to-day tasks, such as light housekeeping and transportation, so seniors can continue to live independently in their own homes.

It's funded by the provincial government and managed by the United Way of the Lower Mainland.

After getting the program up and running, it had its first home visit to a Burnaby senior on March 13, said Michele Wilson, program coordinator.

Wilson, who works with Burnaby Citizen Support Services, told council Monday that the response to the program has been "overwhelming."

Due to Burnaby's large seniors population, the city is eligible for up to $200,000 a year in provincial funding for the program, she said. But in less than one month, it had already surpassed the number of clients it expected to have after six months.

"We could be at our funding's capacity very soon."

Wilson said she hopes that by demonstrating the need to the province and United Way that they'll be able to provide help to all those that request it.

At the same meeting, Mayor Derek Corrigan told a delegation from Voices of Burnaby Seniors that council was "disappointed" to hear of recent cuts by United Way to seniors programs in the city.

Partly due to falling short of its fundraising goals, the United Way has given notice it is not renewing time-limited grants to dozens of seniors programs across Metro Vancouver.

Those include the seniors outreach ambassador program run by Burnaby Neighbourhood House that connects isolated seniors with community resources.

Over at Burnaby Seniors Outreach Services Society, it's losing the grant for its family caregiver program, half its overall budget. That program provides support to people, many who are seniors themselves, who are serving as caregivers for elderly family members.

And the Voices of Burnaby Seniors also won't see its United Way funding renewed when it expires at the end of June. That group  works with agencies and individual seniors to develop priorities and projects to help local seniors and their families,

Its coordinator, Mariam Larson, told council that if the United Way had to choose, she would hope direct service providers were supported before her planning group.

Corrigan called her position admirable but called the planning work "very, very useful" to seniors and to government to let them know what it is that seniors need.

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com

twitter.com/WandaChow

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