After spending close to $800,000 to buy and renovate a Lakelse Ave. building, the Ksan House Society has officially opened its doors.
With 20 beds, two bathrooms, a kitchen and laundry facilities, the building at 4444 Lakelse is being named Turning Points Housing Connections.
The name captures Ksan’s hope for the shelter, said Elaine McGillivray, the society’s director of housing.
Though Ksan doesn’t require any sign from its clients there that they desire to change, McGillivray says she hopes that having services right there and people on hand to talk with, will give clients the desire to turn their lives around.
“We can offer these guys or girls, opportunities in the morning to meet with us… they might just come here day in and day out and just sleep, but our hopes is that they will want to connect in the morning, and say ‘hey I want to make a change’,” she said.
The facility is called an extreme weather shelter by the provincial BC Housing Agency, which provides an operating grant typically from November to the end of March each year.
But it’s also called a damp shelter because it accepts people who have been drinking, something not allowed at the Ksan society’s regular homeless shelter which is at its Hall St. complex on the southside.
This winter, Ksan temporarily housed the damp shelter at Hall St. pending the opening of its new space on Lakelse Ave.
McGillivray said the temporary space took in between 12 and 15 people a night, something which has continued at the new location.
Ksan bought the $680,000 building last July, got occupancy in October and then Technicon Industries started on renovations.
McGillivray says renovations took longer than expected and were much more involved than originally planned, with costs tallying up to around $100,000 by the end.
Original plans included a kitchen, closing up the office walls, and adding a shower in the bathroom.
Then, because of building code requirements, Ksan was required to add a handicap bathroom and a second entrance with a ramp and rail.
“We were planning to do a small project just to get us going, but it ended up being a bit bigger, with us having to add an extra bathroom, and an extra doorway, things like that, which we weren’t expecting to do,” said McGillivray.
Ksan added six security cameras, and a small separate space with three beds for women.
The building has five existing upstairs apartments and one downstairs with a completely separate entrance, which will provide good transition housing and help pay off the $680,000 mortgage for the building.
The shelter has 20 beds in total and entry is gained by a front door opening onto Lakelse Ave.
Then, in a separate area connected by double doors which will lock at night, are three Ksan offices where staff will be available to offer support services come morning.
McGillivray’s office is there, as well as one for Blaine Stensgaard, homeless prevention worker, and Arlene Spalding, Ksan’s housing manager who takes applications for subsidized housing.
This is the first permanent home for Ksan’s extreme weather shelter.
Over the years the extreme weather shelter has moved around, first at a building at Hall St. now converted for other purposes, then at the former provincial correctional centre in the Keith Ave. light industrial area.
For the past several years it has been at the All Nations Centre on Sparks St. near the downtown core. Sleeping pads were rolled out nightly at the All Nations Centre and stored during the daytime but that arrangement proved unsuitable because of food serving licensing restrictions.
Then last spring, Ksan found an empty building on Lazelle Ave. next door to Terrace Interiors, but city council turned down a rezoning application due to public opposition.
Now at their new place, McGillivray says Ksan hopes to extend the shelter’s hours and services into the spring and summer months in the future.
“We want to, that’s our goal, but that’s not concrete,” she said. “We have to figure out a way to do that. At this point, we only have funding until [March].”
For now the extreme weather shelter cost is being covered by the BC Housing grant.
While revenue from the apartments is going toward the building mortgage, McGillivray said the society will also be looking for donations to pay off its new facility and operate it into the summer.
It is organizing a fundraiser and awareness walk on Feb. 25. Called “Coldest Night of the Year,” business and community groups can sign up as teams, collect pledges and walk a 2, 5, or 10 kilometre route “in the shoes of homeless people.”
Look up “Coldest Night of the Year – Terrace” on Facebook for more.