Thirty-eight people in the Salmon Arm area who were without homes or at risk of becoming homeless now have a safe and stable place to call their own.
On Monday, Nov. 8, residents began moving into Cedar Place, the third of three buildings in a 105-unit affordable housing project born about three years ago. The Shuswap-Revelstoke branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) partnered with BC Housing and the City of Salmon Arm to create much-needed housing; construction on the two-acre site at 540 Third St. SW began in the summer of 2019.
The first building, Larch Place, which opened in February 2021, contains 32 one-, two- and three-bedroom rental units catering to seniors, families and people with disabilities with low to moderate incomes. The second building, Birch Place, with 35 one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom rental units, opened in June.
Cedar Place, which will see all 38 residents moving into their studio suites over the next three weeks, is supportive housing, providing round-the-clock staffing and two meals per day.
It also provides access to support services such as life-skills training, employment assistance, counselling, physical and mental-health resources and addiction recovery services.
Two of the 38 studio units in the four-storey, wood-frame building are built to accommodate wheelchairs, and all units have a washroom and a main room containing a single bed, an easy chair, table and chairs, a wall-mounted television, a fridge, microwave, cook-top stove, a sink and lots of cupboards.
Breakfast and dinner, wifi, the laundry room, heat and electricity are all included in the rent.
A basket in each unit contains items such as cleaning supplies, a shower curtain, bath towels – and a house plant.
Dawn Dunlop, executive director of CMHA, Shuswap-Revelstoke which is managing the buildings, said the Women Who Wine organization provided the plants for each suite.
Dunlop raved about all the community partnerships and support that have made the project possible.
“It’s really been a community collaboration.”
Along with the individual studio units, Cedar Place contains a commercial kitchen, a dining room, meeting rooms, a laundry room, a safe-injection area, two smoking areas outside, a small dog run and an office with cameras that monitor the halls and common areas to ensure residents’ well-being.
“Most of the supportive sites are now modular, because the government wants to impact really quickly. This is probably one of the first new purpose-built supportive housing sites,” explained Dunlop, who was instrumental in getting the project underway. “It’s a beautiful building.”
David Eby, B.C.’s attorney general and minister responsible for housing, said everyone deserves stable housing.
“These new supportive homes will give people experiencing homelessness in Salmon Arm the foundation they need to move forward with their lives,” he remarked.
Salmon Arm Mayor Alan Harrison also expressed his appreciation.
“With 24-7 support, Cedar Place will provide residents experiencing homelessness with a safe, supportive place to live,” he said.
Residents moving into Cedar Place, who are all local with some coming from temporary housing at the McGuire Lake building, went through a different process than simply filling out a BC Housing application.
Temporary housing at McGuire Lake is shutting down this month. The Lighthouse Shelter will be opening Nov. 10, but with limited capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Dunlop said a coordinated access system was used to choose residents at Cedar Place, where a group of organizations such as BC Housing, CMHA, the SAFE Society, Interior Health, the Salvation Army and others meet. Later, the person applying is interviewed and tells their story. Collaboratively, it’s decided if the person and the supportive housing would be a good match.
Regarding staff at Cedar Place, Dunlop said she is pleased to say a good complement has been hired. Still needed is a cook, one night-shift position and a few casual positions.
Staff have toured and worked at other sites and have done lots of training in areas such as mental health first aid, trauma-informed practice, naloxone training and harm reduction, she said.
Dunlop emphasized that CMHA and partners want the project to be an asset to the neighbours.
“Working with our neighbours, providing great service, and we’re going to be here 24/7 supporting people,” she said. “Being a part of the community, being a positive is really important to us.”
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