Jason Haskett and Rachel Williams celebrated one year off the streets in July 2020 thanks to finding a home at My Place in Vernon. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Jason Haskett and Rachel Williams celebrated one year off the streets in July 2020 thanks to finding a home at My Place in Vernon. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Supportive housing gives former homeless Okanagan couple hope

‘This building has helped us become stable and without it we’d probably still be out in the streets’

Wondering where they were going to sleep at night was a daily struggle for Rachel Williams and Jason Haskett.

Addicted to drugs and living in and out of shelters is a not-too-distant memory for the couple.

But that basic need, housing, is no longer a concern, thanks to My Place. Williams and Haskett were some of the first to call the supportive housing apartment home, when it first opened in July 2019.

“It’s nice to be able to rest your head in a nice warm place,” said Haskett.

Both in their 40s, the pair have stuck together through some tough years. That’s all they really had when they hit rock bottom and their addictions saw them lose their home and almost all their worldly possessions.

But not having to worry about where they are going to spend the nights has allowed them to focus on getting better.

“This building has helped us become stable and without it, we’d probably still be out in the streets,” Haskett said. “We’d be a lot worse off.”

Thanks to My Place, the couple has been able to get control of their addictions. While they still use, they aren’t spending all their money on drugs. And they aren’t spending their time stealing and trying to get money for drugs. Instead, they are volunteering their time helping others — whether it’s handing out water in the heat of summer to other people living on the street, cleaning up needles or volunteering at the Overdose Prevention Site.

“We’re trying to get our lives back together because we’ve hit rock bottom,” Haskett said. “I’ve been down this road a little too long, more than I want to be. I want to straighten up I want to travel with her, I want to do something with our lives.”

It’s given them joy, purpose and support.

That’s exactly what the 50-unit housing project aims to do. And efforts are building to construct the second phase of My Place, which will double the number of supportive housing beds in the community.

But that was recently threatened by a motion from Vernon Coun. Scott Anderson, who had requested a moratorium on future projects.

Anderson has since withdrawn his request, which also called for a third-party audit of all BC Housing funded projects in Vernon, on the basis that it was “too broad” of a motion and “unfortunately included BC Housing initiatives that I’m in favour of,” Anderson said in a follow-up statement Feb. 22.

The withdrawal was welcome news to staff at Turning Points Collaborative Society, which operates My Place.

READ MORE: Vernon councillor to ‘refocus’ too broad housing audit motion

“We believe that any disruption of the supportive housing projects in our city will put vulnerable lives at risk, put more people on the streets or in parks, and cause further outcry from the community,” the society said.

Anderson’s original motion prompted a flurry of support for Turning Points on social media sites, on community forums and to Vernon city council.

While Anderson withdrew his motion, he warned it would return “more focused” at a later date.

With a vacancy rate of one per cent in Vernon, Turning Points said now is not the time to disrupt the progress being made to help people put a roof over their head.

“On top of that, we are in the middle of a pandemic as well as a deadly opioid crisis. There is more need than ever in our community for supportive housing, as well as the continuum of services that follow,” the agency said.

Addiction treatment, harm reduction services, mental and physical health supports, a community support worker, employment services, and a healthy peer network were given to the 56 people who first called My Place home and all those who continue to.

“Of course measuring success for individual human beings is determined on a case-by-case basis, but without a doubt, lives have been saved,” Turning Points said.

Surrounding neighbours have been supportive of My Place. In a survey conducted by Turning Points in June of 2020, 98 per cent of area residents and businesses stated they would support more supportive housing in the community, and 70 per cent stated that the neighbourhood had improved.

There are currently two additional supportive housing projects in motion with BC Housing, each of which would create 25-30 jobs.

READ MORE: Housing audit would derail process


@VernonNews
jennifer@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

homeless housingHomelessness

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Patios, retail shops to expand outdoor spaces in West Kelowna (PHOTO: The City of West Kelowna).
West Kelowna allows expanded patios, retail spaces

West Kelowna allows businesses to expand outdoor service areas due to pandemic restrictions

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

Kate Budau’s flat tire outside of Glenmore Elementary School on Monday. (Contributed)
Kelowna mom searches for Good Samaritans who helped her change a tire

Woman looking for two dads who helped her after her tire popped in the Glenmore Elementary School drop-off area on Monday

John Wekking, Merritt Road Report - Facebook
 Coquihalla Road Report
Wildfire sparks off Coquihalla in Merritt

The wildfire is located near the Dollarama off of Highway 5

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
67 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Thirty people in the region are hospitalized with the virus, 11 of whom are intensive care

Volunteers at the West Kelowna Salvation Army were celebrated with a special treat on Monday. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
Central Okanagan community organizations celebrate volunteers

It’s Volunteer Appreciation Week and non-profits are highlighting the people who put in the work

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

Lumby resident Dan Hill was at Vernon’s Polson Park to celebrate 4-20 by giving away free marijuana joints to people of age April 20, 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
North Okanagan man back with free joints, cupcakes on 4-20

Dan Hill is trying to help people of age relax during a stressful April with marijuana giveaway

A lit cigarette tossed from a passing car is believed to be the cause of a grass fire which was only held to a ditch by the quick action of passersby in Salmon Arm on April 19. (Pixabay image)
Passersby fight Salmon Arm roadside grass fire believed started by flicked cigarette

Dry conditions prompt warning from resident, fire department

Most Read