Kelowna’s newest supportive housing development is ready to welcome its first 51 residents.
Hearthstone, a 46-unit modular building will house formerly homeless singles and couples, as well as people who were living on the street and suffering from mental health and addiction issues.
“This building will provide a home for people who didn’t have a home,” said Ann Howard, Interior regional director with B.C. Housing, adding it will also provide some support services and the ability to connect residents with even more.
She said the $8 million facility is the first to be built by the province under its latest program aimed at helping the homeless with both housing and support services. The building was funded through the Building BC Rapid Response to Homelessness program, part of a province-wide investment of $291 million to build 2,000 supporting housing facilities throughout B.C., and more than $170 million over three years for 24/7 staffing and support services. Similar buildings have been announced in 22 B.C. communities.
In Kelowna, the former North Pointe Motel, across Highway 97 from Hearthstone, is being converted into a similar building to be called Heath House. It will have 42 units of supportive housing. It will be managed by the Canadian Mental Health Association and is expected to be ready for residents next month.
Hearthstone, which will be a harm-reduction facility—meaning residents can use drugs in the facility—has a safe injection room so users can be monitored and staff require residents to tell them if they plan to use in their own suite and leave the door ajar so they can be monitored.
Supportive services will be provided 24/7 and a number of security measures have been put in place including 32 cameras throughout the building, controlled entrance points, medical staff on hand and a fence at the back of the property on Commerce Avenue, between Highway 97 North and Enterprise Way.
Hearthstone will be operated and managed by the John Howard Society of Central and South Okanagan and Gaelene Askeland, executive director of the society, said she feels positive strides have been made with the property’s neighbours, who at first expressed concern about the locating the building near their businesses.
She said an open house for neighbours was held last week and attracted 40 to 50 people.
“They really liked the building,” she said.
“We are thrilled to add Hearthstone to our continuum of housing,” added Askeland. “This new modular building will provide a safe, caring, stable environment for vulnerable women and men who have been living without homes in Kelowna.”
The society also manages other social housing projects in the city, including New Gate in Rutland and the Cardington Apartments on St. Paul Street in downtown Kelowna.
The completion of Hearthstone was also welcomed by Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran.
City council were given a tour of the building Tuesday and Basran said Hearthstone will help Kelowna with its Journey Home strategy, which aims to eliminate homelessness in the city over the next five years.
“We are really happy to see Hearthstone open. It’s an important step toward creating a larger inventory of supported housing in Kelowna and keeps us on the path to fulfilling our Journey Home strategy,” said Colin Basran, mayor, City of Kelowna. “We appreciate the investment BC Housing is making in our community and helping us address our need for more housing for those who are most vulnerable in our city.”
Hearthstone is a three-storey, modular-constructed building. Each unit is 31.7 square metres and has its own kitchenette and bathroom. Five of the units are wheelchair accessible and five are larger and designed for couples. There is a communal kitchen, dining area, lounge with access to an outdoor deck, a secured entry and a medical room and facilities for washing and drying clothes. The site has a dog run—pets are allowed but must be on-leash in the building—and storage for residents’ possessions.
“These homes will help get people indoors, and just as important, into a supportive environment where they will have the services they need to rebuild their lives and prepare to move on to more permanent housing,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing in a news release.
“This benefits everyone in Kelowna. By addressing homelessness, we’re working to raise the quality of life of everyone in our communities.”
The building is on land leased for four years with the option for an extension of three-year additional years. Residents will pay rent of between $375 and $500 per month, money that will come from the living allowance provide by the province through social services. Residents will be encouraged to look for jobs and assistance will be provided to help them.
Building manager Dani Moretto said while the aim is to help residents move on to more permanent housing, some will could end up living at Hearthstone for good.
Howard said because the building is modular, it can be moved to another site, and when it is, those long-term residents would move with it.
“If we have to move, they won’t be made homeless again,” she said.
All 51 residents—who must first be assessed and then be approved by a housing committee—has been selected for Hearthstone and Moretto said there is also a waiting list in place.
As spaces become available, new residents will be considered, she said.
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