Senior citizens ‘take it to the street’ to save Williamsville home

Local News

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB)–The union representing many of the workers at Blocher Homes held an informational picket at the assisted living facility in Williamsville, enlisting the help of some of the senior residents, Monday.

Blocher Homes has been a fixture on Evans Street for more than a century, but its owner, Beechwood Continuing Care, is closing the senior home and selling the property to People Inc., which would likely lead to the workers losing their jobs.

People, Inc. plans to convert the assisted living facility to affordable apartments, and units for people with disabilities. The plan would boost the number of residents there, and even neighbors are objecting to the sale.

Janice Nichter, a long-time personal care aide is also a member of 1199SEIU, the union that represents 18 of the home’s 60 employees, “They love this place, we love this place. This is our home, we are family. I still can’t believe this is happening.”

1199SEIU organizer Marshall Bertram said the union wants the workers to be part of the discussion because they have a lot at stake.

“If Blocher Homes is closing down, they have a right to negotiate over the effects of that closure. That is what we are asking the employer to do, lawfully they are required to do that. At this point in time, they are saying that nothing has happened yet.”

Arlene Bolton has been a resident of Blocher Homes, with her husband, for nearly 4 years, and said, while the aides may have to find new jobs, the aging residents have to find a home that offers the kind of quality assisted living they have at Blocher which is in short supply.

“Some of them are angry, yes, but stressed, and for old people to be so stressed is not too good.”

But the conversion could take time. Blocher’s owner presented a number of changes to Williamsville’s Planning Board, Monday, which would boost the cost of the project by $10 million, and adds more apartments and parking.

The approval process, involving state and local agencies, could take several months.

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