Squamish is getting a new transitional house that will offer various levels of help for those getting back on their feet.
The home-like setting at 38108 Fourth Ave. will serve up to 10 Sea to Sky Corridor adults and be operational sometime before next fall, according to a news release.
The short-term residents will have access to specialized mental health and substance use care, peer support, cultural support—including Indigenous cultural support workers, Elders and knowledge keepers, tenant, building and food services.
The program is a collaboration between the provincial government, BC Housing, Vancouver Coastal Health, the District of Squamish, and local partners.
Clients will be able to stay from three days to three months, based on individualized housing and care plans.
Turning Point Recovery Society will operate the new transitional housing.
"Turning Point looks forward to working with our community partners and funders to expand the continuum of services we offer in the Sea to Sky Region," said Brenda Plant, executive director for Turning Point Recovery Society, in the release. "This transitional housing program will provide individuals in need of stable housing and supports, a safe, inclusive and welcoming environment within which they can reclaim their health and dignity and quality of life."
"We have an urgent need for additional housing for folks experiencing housing insecurity and who require a circle of supports to care for their health and well-being, and we are grateful to be working with our community partners to create access to safe shelter and supports for some of our most vulnerable residents," said Squamish Mayor Armand Hurford in a news release. "We recognize there are members of our community who are struggling. Bringing people together to increase our supports will help to create a stronger, healthier, safer community for all our citizens."
According to the release, this relatively new model of care helps reduce demand for acute care services, instances of housing instability and crises in the community.
Why in Squamish?
Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, told The Squamish Chief in an interview on Nov. 15 that the urgent need in the Sea to Sky is the motivation for supporting such a transitional house in Squamish.
"We know, that there is an increase in people struggling with complex mental health, substance use health and housing needs. And we know, for example, [looking at] the homelessness count, we're seeing more homelessness in the Sea to Sky region. And we think that transitional housing is a really important part of the housing continuum to better support people on a journey to wellness and to a more stable life," she said.
She pointed to the Point in Time survey that found a rise in Indigenous locals experiencing homelessness.
"In Squamish, 32% of the of the 119 who were counted during the count identify as Indigenous; they make up 3% of the census population. So we know that given the impact of housing insecurity and of mental health and substance use issues for Indigenous people, the kinds of supports that are going to be provided in this project are critical."
Given the current housing crunch in the corridor, asked what clients are to do once their time is up, Whiteside said the program aims to help people on to their next steps.
"Really, transitional housing is all about providing an initial opportunity to help people become stable,” she said. “Stable in their house, have a regular place to call home, while the next steps are being sorted out for them.”
"And what's important about this project is the inclusion of wraparound services for the people who will be cared for in the space."
‘Committed to being a good neighbour’
It is no secret that sometimes there can be opposition in the neighbourhoods where this type of housing is placed.
Yet the release notes, "Turning Point is committed to being a good neighbour, has extensive experience operating similar programs in the region and throughout the Lower Mainland, making a difference in the communities they serve."
To those locals who still may be concerned, Whiteside said this type of housing is about caring for everyone in the community.
"And this kind of transitional housing is really critical in the midst of a housing crisis, in the midst of a crisis in mental health, in which many people are experiencing mental health and addiction challenges, " she said.
"Vancouver Coastal [Health], BC Housing are very committed to working with neighbours ... and looking forward to having a chance to talk with the community about the importance of this project. And to ensure that this project really, really works well for the people it's intended to support as well as the community."