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LETTER OF THE WEEK: Grant money hard to reach for Nova Scotia seniors in need

Jeremy Locke, owner of Locke’s Roofing and Construction in Bridgeport, stands with Jeanette MacDonald outside her home in Glace Bay. Locke, seeing her roof was in deplorable shape, simply knocked on her door offering to replace it for free back in the spring, but it took a little trick months later to get her to accept. MacDonald said she’s extremely grateful to Locke, as her roof has been bad for a couple years, but this past year took a beating with storms and there are numerous leaks in the house.
Jeremy Locke, owner of Locke’s Roofing and Construction in Bridgeport, stands with Jeanette MacDonald outside her home in Glace Bay. Locke, seeing her roof was in deplorable shape, simply knocked on her door offering to replace it for free back in the spring, but it took a little trick months later to get her to accept. MacDonald said she’s extremely grateful to Locke, as her roof has been bad for a couple years, but this past year took a beating with storms and there are numerous leaks in the house. - Sharon Montgomery-Dupe

I have followed the media reports regarding the generosity of Jeremy Locke in providing a free roof to a very needy senior in Glace Bay. This amazing act of kindness was followed by many more gifts from strangers who wanted to help this deserving lady who is raising four grandsons in an old house desperately in need of repairs. 

While I am very impressed, and not surprised, by the kindness of Cape Bretoners and people from farther away, I also find that I need to express how concerned I am that her attempts to obtain a grant from Housing Nova Scotia had apparently gone unheeded until her plight and the generosity of strangers made the news. Only then did a representative miraculously appear and announce that she'd be getting $18,000 in grants to repair her home to acceptable standards. 

Last year, I tried to help an 86-year-old neighbour who was living alone in a very old house in a rural area of Antigonish County. Her previous attempts to obtain grants from Housing Nova Scotia (located in New Glasgow) had been turned down or had gone unheeded. Being retired, and a former government employee, I thought that I could possibly unravel some of the “red tape” involved.  I found that it was not a simple matter and required several trips to New Glasgow, meetings with Housing Nova Scotia employees (not all of whom were helpful) and the gathering of many documents related to this lady’s income, assessment, taxes, etc. 

When that hurdle was passed, I had to obtain two quotes each from a plumber, a carpenter and a furnace installer. It was difficult to find tradesmen who were willing to go to a rural area to do a relatively small job. But I did locate some wonderful people, who not only did a great job, but were very helpful and respectful of this elderly lady. In the process, we were also able to have Efficiency Nova Scotia do extensive insulation and weatherproofing. 

The point of my letter is the fact that a lot of grant money is available for elderly people. But without a car, a computer or someone to speak for them, it is almost impossible to access. What can be done to make this process more transparent, accessible and more user friendly for seniors? 

Judy MacLean, Antigonish 

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