Being able to provide a roof over the heads of those struggling with homelessness is key to making positive change in the community, said B.C.’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson in Terrace on Thursday.
She stressed that point when speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony on August 2 at 4523 Olson Avenue, where 52-units of supportive housing will be built before the winter.
“This means people on the streets who are living rough, living in the woods…they’re going to have a warm, dry place to stay,” Robinson said.
The three-storey building will have 24/7 support for residents, including meal programs, laundry, life and employment skills training, and health and wellness services. Each unit will have its own kitchenette and bathroom. The building includes a multipurpose dining area with a lounge, commercial kitchen, laundry room and bike storage. Residents will have to go through a referral process with local agencies to start their application.
“The ground we’re breaking on today will mean that people will have the dignity to be able to go and have a shower when they wake up in the morning. It means they will be able to have a cup of tea if they can’t sleep in the middle of the night. It means they will have access to people 24/7 to help them to stay securely housed,” Robinson said.
Terrace is one of the 22 communities receiving modular homes funded through the province’s Building BC: Rapid Response to Homelessness program. The province is investing $10.1 million in capital and construction costs for the project, with an annual operating subsidy.
For the city to be a part of this initiative is like “winning the lotto,” said Mayor Carol Leclerc.
“That’s huge for us. Homelessness has plagued our city for years, and we know there has been a need. Our council has worked tirelessly on this. Having the data that comes in from the homelessness counts just gives us that proof that when we go to the provincial government to do lobbying, that there is a need here in the North.”
While the units in this building are smaller, Leclerc said the affordable housing project on 4622 Haugland Avenue will be able to accommodate more people into multi-family dwellings. That building will have 45-units for low-income individuals and is expected to open by March 1, 2019.
“So that’s bachelor, one, two and three bedroom units, so that will definitely help families,” Leclerc said.
Amanda Bains, executive director of the Ksan House, said the Olson Avenue development will mean more people dealing with chronic homelessness will receive proper help in Terrace.
“With the lack of supportive housing, individuals are being admitted prematurely and, or, inappropriately to hospitals, police cells, or shelters. Access to housing in conjunction with on-site supports is essential in successfully housing those individuals who are the most vulnerable.”
The modular housing units are expected to be assembled on-site by the fall, ahead of their tentative opening scheduled for this winter.