Ground breaks for new Métis seniors housing project in Lac Ste. Anne, Alta.

Officials broke ground for a new Métis housing project in rural Alberta on Saturday.

The development, which will be jointly funded by the provincial and federal governments, will be built in Lac Ste. Anne, a community that is home to a massive annual pilgrimage and that was recently blessed by the Pope on his visit to Canada. It will feature 12 homes specifically for Métis seniors, as well as a community gathering centre.

“It was through conversations with community elders and seniors over the past several years that we learned of their desire to stay home as they age,” said Tracy Friedel with the Lac Ste. Anne Métis Community Association.

The construction comes at a perfect time for area elder Gloria Raicos, who says maintaining her own property is becoming difficult as she ages, but Ota Wikitak will solve that problem for her.

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“When it comes to senior communities and safe housing, there aren’t many options for Métis members in this area,” she said. “Moving into the city would be a difficult transition that I would not like to make.

“Having the choice to stay in this area, which I know and love, where I have family close by, all while being near services I need is something I am very grateful for.”

“This is home to them,” said Joe Blakeman, Lac Ste. Anne county reeve. “Over 150, 175 years, some of the families have been out here. And to be able to spend your final days here — look at it, it’s gorgeous. I think it means everything to them.”

The dozen homes will also be accessible and affordable, with some of the units being “deeply subsidized” or below market, Friedel said. She added the buildings will be highly energy efficient, which will help reduce operating costs.

It is expected residents will be able to move in next year.

“When they’re ready, I’ll be ready,” Raicos said.

Lac Ste. Anne is located about 75 kilometres east of Edmonton.

— with files from Sarah Ryan, Global News

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