Hous­ing project aimed at down­town home­less

The Prince George Citizen - - Local - Mark NIELSEN Cit­i­zen staff [email protected]­i­t­i­zen.ca

Of­fi­cials from BC Hous­ing and the City of Prince Ge­orge shed more light Wed­nes­day on a plan to build hous­ing for the home­less and peo­ple liv­ing on low-to-mod­er­ate in­comes on the edge of the city’s down­town.

First an­nounced in Au­gust, the projects are planned for 805 First Ave., the cur­rent home of NR Mo­tors.

The city will be pur­chas­ing the site – with the price to be dis­closed once the trans­ac­tion has gone through – and BC Hous­ing is to lead the con­struc­tion of 50 units of sup­port­ive hous­ing and one hold­ing 50 units of rental homes for low-in­come peo­ple.

The build­ings will also in­clude ground- floor health­care ser­vices, rang­ing from pri­mary care to harm re­duc­tion to spe­cial­ized men­tal health and sub­stance use ser­vices.

In a meet­ing with lo­cal me­dia, held prior to a com­mu­nity in­for­ma­tion meet­ing at the Civic Cen­tre, city man­ager Kath­leen Soltis said they were look­ing for a site large enough to ac­com­mo­date all those needs and in a lo­ca­tion that peo­ple who need the help can reach.

“It’s not smack in the midst of busi­nesses as some of the health ser­vices now are,” Soltis said. “And in ad­di­tion to that, it’s go­ing to be a lovely site... it will be a nice build­ing, it will be well main­tained and it’s go­ing to have lovely land­scap­ing, so it is go­ing to be a very good place for peo­ple to live at and ac­cess the ser­vices they need.”

BC Hous­ing re­gional di­rec­tor Malachy To­hill said get­ting peo­ple liv­ing on the fringe into safe and sta­ble hous­ing is a “first step for peo­ple to be able to move on to a bet­ter qual­ity of life, to be able to ac­cess the other sup­ports.”

The project will have an “im­pact on the streets,” he said.

Teach­ing ba­sic life skills will be among the ser­vices.

“Each unit will have its own self-con­tained kitch­enette too and one thing that we’ve found in the past is that the one they don’t know how to do is to cook and start tak­ing care of them­selves,” To­hill said. “So we’ll have a meal pro­gram, where we’ll sup­ply two meals a day, and also help them learn about cook­ing and those other things that will help sup­port them and move for­ward in life.”

As to who will be ac­cepted, To­hill said a com­mit­tee will con­sider can­di­dates with an aim at get­ting those with the big­gest needs off the street.

“How­ever, you do need a mix in there, so that you don’t have 50 peo­ple in there with hard-core men­tal-health and addiction is­sues,” he said. “Some will have lesser is­sues, some will have more is­sues, but we want to have the right mix to make it a good com­mu­nity en­vi­ron­ment.”

On the health ser­vices, North­ern Health spokesper­son Steve Raper said the agency is look­ing at how it can “co-lo­cate into an in­te­grated model,” and in­di­cated the nee­dle ex­change will be moved to the spot.

“We’ll in­clude harm re­duc­tion, but it’ll also in­clude pri­mary care and things of that na­ture,” Raper said.

The projects re­main sub­ject to the prop­erty re­zon­ing process which in­cludes a pub­lic hear­ing be­fore city coun­cil.

CIT­I­ZEN PHOTO BY BRENT BRAATEN

City man­ager Kath­leen Soltis and Malachy To­hill with BC Hous­ing go over the pan­els that were at a pub­lic in­for­ma­tion ses­sion on Wed­nes­day evening that pro­vided in­for­ma­tion about the pro­posed hous­ing project that has been iden­ti­fied for First Av­enue at the cur­rent lo­ca­tion of NR Mo­tors.

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