On February 8th 1959, the Daily Colonist announced a $750,000 project of The Gorge View Homes Society, a senior’s housing complex. The newspaper included a picture of the moderator of the United Church of Canada, Rev. Angus. J. MacQueen, accompanied by local dignitaries, turning the first sod. By 1960 The Society had its first building with six suites renting to two married couples at $35, and to four individuals at $25 monthly.
Income ceilings were such that a couple could not earn more than $105 a month - a sign of the times! Old age pensions in 1951 became a concurrent power of the federal and provincial governments; not long after, the first OAS benefit of $40 per person was introduced by the government of the day on the prodding of Stanley Knowles and the CCF.
The establishment of The Gorge View Society in June 1956 began with active fundraising by the Women's Auxiliaries of Vancouver Island. Bertha Parsons, the first president of The Society, acknowledged the donations of many, especially the Social Services arm of the United Church, significant donations through legacies, the support of the Women's Auxiliaries, and anonymous donors. She also noted that the provincial government contributed a dollar for every $3 raised by members. The expert negotiators on the first Board of the Society promised to pave Irma Street in exchange for buying a 5 acre property from the City -- at half price! Accordingly the property was reduced to $15,000 from $30,000 with the resultant savings going towards connecting to City services which ended at Irma Street at that time.
The address of the complex, Chown Place, was named for Reverend Samuel Chown, an elected General Supervisor of Methodist churches supporting Union of Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational churches becoming The United Church of Canada in 1925. No doubt his commitment to women's equality, improved education, mental health and sanitation services as well as his words that "Christianity requires a passionate commitment to social involvement" influenced the decision to name the location in his memory.
The Society itself has taken these words to heart along with the philosophy in Bertha Parson's first report:
... "everything undertaken so far is paid for, and this is what we hope for – to pay as we go".
And grow we have! As we celebrate nearly 60 years, our 17th building on the property was completed in time and on budget without outside funding, while social justice continues to be a primary commitment.