A 44-unit housing project and 24-hour child care facility, costing just less than $18 million, broke ground in Kitimat on Aug. 8, with a crowd of provincial, municipal, and community leaders joining the gathering of 40 people to celebrate the start of construction.
The housing project to assist women and children in leaving violence results from a partnership between the provincial BC Housing agency, the federal Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the District of Kitimat and Tamitik Status of Women Association (TSW).
The four-storey building, located on Quatsino Boulevard, will include a 12-bed transition house, 12 second-stage housing units, and 20 units of permanent affordable housing for women and their children in Kitimat and the surrounding area.
Services will include on-site support for women leaving violence, including transgender women, non-binary and Two- Spirit people, and their dependent children. The development will allow women and their children to move from the transition house spaces into the second-stage units and affordable townhomes. The doors are anticipated to open near the end of 2023.
Provincial Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equality, Grace Lore, said she had been asked to develop a gender-based violence action plan.
“One of the major things I hear over and over is the need for housing, is a need for spaces when folks are ready to get out of transition housing but need a safe place to go that support it,” she said.
“This, it’s clear to me, is an essential example of why that housing is needed and why we need to continue to work with partners who were on the ground to make it a reality.”
The province is providing $17 million through the Building BC: Women’s Transition Housing Fund and will also provide annual operating funding. The District of Kitimat is providing $471,000 and will lease the land, valued at $244,000, at a nominal rate. The federal government is providing $25,000 and Vancouver City Savings Credit Union is contributing $15,000.
The project has been proposed since 2015, said Sairoz Sekhon, director of Women’s Transition Housing & Supports for BC Housing.
“So we recognized years ago that we really needed to redevelop the transition house, develop some second-stage and long-term housing for women and children in Kitimat,” she said, adding that in July, there was a groundbreaking for a 22-unit second-stage housing facility in Terrace.
Sekhon explained the differences in housing between the stages, with transitional housing being where women would go if they are experiencing immediate violence needing to get out of their homes.
“It’s that place, they’re in crisis, they need somewhere to go. There is a staff there 24/7 to provide support, to answer their calls, to bring them into the transition house. The second stage is kind of the next step after someone’s been in the transition house. [It’s] if they’ve decided they’re not going back to an abusive relationship situation, they really want to move forward with their lives,” she said.
Clients can move into their own second-stage apartment for six to 18 months, pay rent, and have access to support services from TSW such as safety planning, crisis intervention, parenting, and tenancy skills.
Rent for the second-stage housing and townhomes will be calculated at 30 per cent of residents’ income or the provincial shelter rate for people receiving income or disability assistance. Since transition house spaces provide an immediate safe space for women to start rebuilding their lives, people using those spaces will not have to pay rent.
On the same site, a first of its kind in B.C. child care facility is being built, Phil Germuth, mayor of the District of Kitimat, told Black Press Media.
The project is a result of a partnership between the district, the Ministry of Education and Child Care and the Haisla Nation. With the foundations to the childcare facility already laid, Germuth said he hopes the roof will be on by December. While housing is one part of the site and a great need, child care is the second part.
“The 24-hour daycare, of course, will be huge. It will be the first 24-hour daycare in B.C. So we’re very proud to have that when you see the number of shift-workers that are in Kitimat …,”
“[Industry such as Rio Tinto and LNG Canada] has been a huge supporter of having women in the workforce. Having a 24-hour daycare gives them that opportunity too, or any single parent, the ability to be able to be part of a project of that magnitude. I think it is a great opportunity for people to further their lives,” the mayor said.
K-J Millar | Editor and Multimedia Journalist
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