Torge recently received a grant from the Therese Casgrain Foundation, which she will put towards developing a model for shared housing for women on fixed incomes. She has chosen a group of six or seven women and is arranging a meeting. If the women feel they’d like to live together, Torge will use the grant money to help them develop a new communal residence, which could serve as an example of what future Radical Resthomes might look like.

The program has its detractors. Torge says the concern she hears most commonly is that the Resthomes won’t function if residents get sick and can no longer take care of themselves.  In that case, Torge counters, people living in a communal setting can take care of each other, or organize to bring homecare workers in.

What we want to do is provide a service that forestalls entry into nursing care

And what about in more difficult situations where the person may need 24/7 care—someone in the middle or later stages of dementia, for example?  Torge admits the program needs to be developed further. But she’s confident that she and her colleagues will figure something out. “We’re sort of experimenting,” she says.

This kind of experimentation is starting to build slowly across the country. In Ontario, Baba Yaga Place Toronto has been in development for about a year. It was inspired by the Baba Yaga Home in Paris — a community organized and inhabited by a group of elderly feminists.

In Toronto, Iris Kairow and her fellow board of directors have heard from about 200 people who expressed curiosity in the Baba Yaga project.

Like Torge, Kairow says her work is also in its early stages. She and her team, led by Wanda Davies,  are putting in grant proposals in hopes of developing a business plan soon.

"What we want to do is provide a service that forestalls entry into nursing care," she says. "There are nursing home facilities, there are palliative care facilities. We're not trying to replace those. Baba Yaga comes before that."

But Canadians like Torge and Kairow who are looking to set up their own co-op or alternative housing arrangement may find they’re facing an uphill battle, financially. The federal government stopped funding social housing almost two decades ago, and while they continued to subsidize existing projects, the offer was time-limited. Between now and 2017, thousands of co-ops across are slated to lose subsidies as they’re agreements expire.

Still, Torge remains hopeful governments will begin funneling money away from institutions and into home care. “If we’re living together and trying to help each other out, I hope that the government also throws a few dollars at us. The idea is that we’re saving them money by living this way.”


To find out more about Radical Resthomes, visit Janet Torge’s blog here.

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Megan Jones

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