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Seniors want apartments back to senior housing


Area seniors are trying to get their "manor" back.

A local apartment complex once reserved for senior citizens no longer is, and some people don't appreciate the change in the neighborhood.

In a letter to the Housing Authority of Grant County, the current agency controlling the former "Senior Manor," Birdie Hensley, president of the Grand Coulee Dam Senior Center, outlined a range of problems that reportedly now exist in the 40-unit building. The letter is backed by the senior center board of directors.

The building, at 211 Continental Heights in Grand Coulee, is owned by the housing authority.

It has been the scene, Hensley stated, "for drugs and the need for police to come and sort out a variety of problems."

Hensley wrote that a main goal of the senior center when it was first organized in 1972 was to "provide housing for the seniors who needed a place to live where they could be comfortable and safe.

"Today it is not the haven where older citizens enjoy their cozy apartments and meet in the large lounge where they entertain their families, enjoy a get-together for games and eats and where they feel safe," she wrote.

Police reports indicate an unusual number of police calls to the HAGC building, now called "Grand Coulee Manor." Police Chief John Tufts said Tuesday that "lately, officers have been called to the building for a variety of reasons."

The housing authority lists the building in its "Public Housing" program, to which people can apply to rent an apartment for about 30 percent of their income and eight hours a month of community service.

Hensley wrote that the senior center members and others are asking to put the word senior back in the name of the facility and "give us back the building that was built and designated as a place for the area seniors to call home."

A copy of the letter was sent to the Grant County Commissioners. Hensley said it is her plan to go down to Ephrata and speak with the commissioners.

After Hensley spoke at a hospital district commissioners' meeting on the subject, the commissioners sent a letter to the editor, published in this issue, expressing "strong support for any legal action" the housing authority can take to "protect our most vulnerable populations, the elderly and the disabled" at the apartment complex. "What was at one time a safe, secure and comfortable home for low-income seniors and the disabled has become, according to residents and police, a very different type of lodging," commissioners wrote, urging the community to press for change.

The Grand Coulee Dam Area Chamber of Commerce is considering a similar letter to the housing authority.

Hensley said that there are two other low-income housing sites in the area, one on Burdin Boulevard and the other at the Spring Canyon Apartments.

"Many of the residents in the ... building have come here from other places and are not local," Hensley stated.

HAGC provides housing assistance throughout Grant County under three programs dubbed "Low Income Housing," "Regular Rentals" and "Homeless Assistance." In 2013, it reported income of nearly $9 million, a third of that from grants and $4.4 million from tenant rent. It spent more than $3 million to "prevent and end homelessness" in the county from 2010 through 2013, with help from local, state and federal agencies, its website says.

HAGC is governed by a board of six commissioners and lists a staff of 20.

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