KAMLOOPS — A day after the city announced the purchase of two properties, the provincial government followed up Wednesday with a $16 million committment for 104 affordable modular units in Kamloops.
"Everybody. It is really to serve seniors, those with disabilities, those who are really struggling to find their way," said Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson. "We really recognize when people are homeless they can often times become quite ill and they're at risk and they certainly aren't going to get better without a roof over their heads."
Robinson made the announcement at Horizon North, a local company that is becoming part of the solution to help homeless in Kamloops and around the province.
Robinson recognizes the affordability crisis everywhere around the province — not just in the Lower Mainland. Since September, she noted the province has developed 1,200 modular units for affordable housing.
The first 52 units will be built next door to the Emerald Centre and will be managed by the Canadian Mental Health Services. The other 52 units will be at 317 Tranquille Road, looked after by ASK Wellness with 24 hour support services for people coming from off the street.
"For me, one of the most important parts of this whole project is this isn't to be at the expense of anybody else," said executive director of ASK Wellness Bob Hughes. "This can be, I believe, the ability to house folks that have been homeless is not mutally exclusive to the community safety. Neighbourhood groups that might feel this is a problem for neighbourhoods. In fact, this is part of the solution to get the shopping carts off the street to be able to help more people from being in addiction and feeling lost and hopeless to begin that journey towards hope."
The units will be 320 square feet with a kitchen, small space for a bed, and a bathroom. They are the same units as the 600 being built for the City of Vancouver by Horizon North. The Kamloops-based company is also building affordable units for as far north as Smithers.
"Seeing the opportunity for modular is something that I certainly embrace," said President and CEO of Horizon North Rod Graham. "As you take a look across Europe, they're 40 years ahead of us. Across the United States, they're probably 10 years ahead of us in terms of modular as a key part of being able to build housing stock."
These projects are expected to ease pressure on winter shelters and will deem the emergency shelter at Stuart Wood unncessary.
"We are anticipating with the addition of the housing stock, these 104 units, that we won't have a need for the extreme weather response in an independent site," said executive director of CMHA Christa Mullaly. "So what we'll do is make space available within our current shelter at Emerald Centre if need be."
The projects aren't enough to take care of the entire homeless population in Kamloops. But Hughes said there are more housing announcements coming.
"104 is going to target some of the problems, but with some of the other announcements that the city is going to make, we're going to see a real balance of housing in the community," he said.
The City of Kamloops confirmed to CFJC Today on Wednesday that another affordable housing announcement will be made in February. The city's social and community development supervisor Jen Casorso said the announcement next month will "deal with a different segment of the population."
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