THE KSAN House Society is finalizing the $680,000 purchase of a building on Lakelse Avenue which will become the permanent location of its damp homeless shelter.
Ksan takes possession of the McRae building on Aug. 17, which is located at 4444 Lakelse Ave. beside WorkSafe BC and near Kalum Kabs towards the old bridge.
This ends their search for a shelter location, which began this spring with an attempt to rezone a building on Lazelle Ave., a move that was denied by city council due to public opposition.
This time the society can operate the shelter without rezoning, as the building is already zoned C1A, mixed-use downtown, said Ksan housing director Elaine McGillivray.
She said they will take out a mortgage for the two-storey building which consists of six apartments on the top floor and offices and open space on the main floor.
“We plan to continue with the residential apartments and have office space, but there will also be a damp shelter,” said McGillivray.
Renovations are planned for the main floor where they plan to set up the 20-bed shelter.
Commonly called a “damp shelter,” the space is to provide beds for anyone, including those who have been drinking. That is different from the society’s main building on Hall Street on the southside, which is open only to those who are completely sober.
Ksan has operated a damp shelter for years at various locations during the cold weather months of October/November to the end of March under a contract from the provincial BC Housing agency.
Up until this year, the society had been renting the All Nations Centre on Sparks Ave. overnight for its damp shelter, but that location was found unsuitable for meal preparation.
The society then planned to buy the old Northern Drugs office building at 4614 Lazelle Ave. beside Terrace Interiors, provided the property could be rezoned. But that plan fell through when city council denied the rezoning due to widespread opposition.
It was that very controversy which actually opened the door for Ksan to purchase the McRae building.
John Hales, who is selling the building to Ksan, said he wasn’t ready to sell it originally, but he changed his mind because he felt it was a good place for Ksan.
“I was planning to sell it in another couple of years, but then I saw in the paper about how they were having so much trouble over there [on Lazelle],” Hales said of Ksan.
“I did believe that [Lazelle] was the wrong place, and I felt my building was the right place for them.”
He says it a good location because it is more on the edge of town and there are only a couple of businesses there.
McGillivray said they liked the location for the shelter because it is still accessible to the downtown.
“At this point, we are just starting to plan what the programming will look like [in the McRae building],” said McGillivray. “We want our clients to have access to the building during the day, to utilize bathrooms for sure.”
They plan to renovate the building to include a full kitchen, two bathrooms with showers and a laundry room. Laundry and showers are two of the services that were named as key needs by those who took part in a recent homelessness survey.
Details are not set in stone, but McGillivray and a homeless prevention worker plan to have their offices there, and they will have 20 beds set up in a permanent space downstairs.
One of the key advantages of the new space is that they won’t have to put beds away each morning, which was the case at previous locations.
“That was one of the reasons we wanted our shelter. We did not want to have to take down beds every morning and rush our clients out the door before the next program came in for the day.”
Having a more permanent set up will allow staff to be more present and accessible for their clients who want change, support or housing, McGillivray said.
“It will allow for staff to connect with the clients in the morning and see if there are any supports we can offer or referrals that we can make.”
The McRae building is around 8,000 square-feet altogether, which will give adequate space for expansion.
Now the society doesn’t need to worry about outgrowing the space in the future, McGillivray said.
The Ksan House Society has finalized the purchase of a building on Lakelse Avenue for its damp homeless shelter, ending a lengthy search for a new location.
The new building, located at 4444 Lakelse Avenue, will be transferred to Ksan’s possession on August 17 when the society will start renovations.
“We have purchased it, we just haven’t taken possession until August 17, but everything is done. It is just a matter of the legal stuff,” said Elaine McGillivray, director of housing with Ksan.
“It does not require a rezone,” she added, which means that the society will not need any special approval from the city before proceeding with the shelter.
Earlier this year, Ksan had taken steps to purchase a building on Lazelle Avenue, but its request to rezone the property so it could be used as a shelter was denied by city council due to public opposition.
The society previously rented space for its extreme weather shelter at the All Nations Centre on Sparks Ave. but has been searching for a new location with more facilities and space.
“We plan to continue with the residential apartments and have office space, and there will also be a damp shelter,” McGillivray said of their plans for the new building.
A damp shelter is called such because it provides beds to those who have consumed alcohol, and it will be open during extreme weather, typically from October or November until March.
Though the details are not set in stone, McGillivray said she and a homeless prevention worker will have their offices in the new building, and they will also put up security cameras.
They have also already touched base with the businesses who are direct neighbours to let them know their plans and they “will try to give the businesses around as much privacy as possible,” McGillivray said.
The new Lakelse building is double the size of the one on Lazelle which Ksan considered previously, thus it settles concerns about outgrowing the space, she added.
They will be renovating the building to include a full kitchen as well as laundry facilities and two bathrooms with showers for their clients to use.
Laundry and showers were two of the top services requested by those who took part in a recent homelessness survey.