Next door to the nearly-cleared woodlot on Park Avenue, Minister Selina Robinson announced the groundbreaking for Prince Rupert’s 36 modular housing units.
“It’s going to make a real difference in people’s lives and a real difference in this community here in Prince Rupert,” said Robinson, the minister of municipal affairs and housing, at the Transition House.
On July 31, Robinson joined MLA Jennifer Rice and acting mayor Blair Mirau at the North Coast Transition Society’s (NCTS) housing for women to talk about another housing project for people who are at risk of homelessness. NCTS will manage the property and provide services that include résumé building skills, meal programs and health and wellness support.
When asked about the proximity of the modular units to Prince Rupert’s women’s shelter, Robinson said NCTS is confident in their ability to meet everyone’s needs. Councillor Blair Mirau, said the city-owned lot the housing units will be built on was the only one available for the construction timeline — and is being leased for only $10.
“When tents went up next to city hall last year, it was a daily reminder for all of us how urgent the problem had become,” Mirau said at the announcement. “So today, we’re extremely happy the province has stepped up to meet this need because, quite frankly, the city would not be able to do it alone.”
Complete with individual units, access to cooking and laundry facilities as well as 24/7 support services, the units are expected to be ready for the onset of winter.
“This kind of program is very different than a traditional shelter program,” Robinson said. “This is where people will have dignity, where they’ll have their own space. Imagine you’ve been homeless and now when you wake up in the morning, you can have a shower. And what that’s going to feel like for somebody who perhaps couldn’t access a shower for days on end.”
The 36 units in Prince Rupert are some of the more than 2,000 support homes being built in 22 communities in B.C. this year. Each unit is built in a warehouse and then stacked onsite. Robinson said the expected lifespan of each is the same as the average building, approximately 40 years. She added that more than 2,000 people will be hired for the construction phase of the support homes across the province.
Until then, the extreme weather shelter on Third Avenue West — originally set up for the winter months after a tent city protest sprung up outside of Prince Rupert’s city hall — has 25 beds. Its opening has been extended to meet demand until more permanent housing is available.
The supportive housing, Robinson said at the announcement, “means people who are currently living on the streets or in parks or in ravines or perhaps even in shelters, are that much closer to having a space to call home. I want to be really clear, a shelter isn’t a home. I can’t think of anything more important than making sure that our most vulnerable citizens do have a place to call home. A place that is safe and secure so they can focus on making a fresh start in their life.”