Opinion: Let’s put out the New West ‘welcome’ mat for supportive housing residents

Chris Campbell

When someone new moves into a neighbourhood, the common thing to do is to welcome them with open arms.

That, of course, does not include hugging right now, but the sentiment shouldn’t change.

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Some new residents are moving into homes in the Queensborough area of New Westminster and I’m really hoping the neighbours are able to file away their past grievances and welcome them to the neighbourhood.

I’m referring to the women moving into more than 40 new supportive homes that will provide safe, warm homes with around-the-clock care and supports to help people who are experiencing homelessness.

Words like “homes,” “residents” and “neighbours” feel extra special when you attach them to people who have experience homelessness.

I won’t relive the process to get this supportive housing project approved at 838 Ewen Ave., but it was, at times, ugly and filled with fear mongering. This same fear mongering has been seen all over B.C. as the provincial government works to build more and more of these homes for people who are suffering the most from the housing crisis. “It’s not the right location,” is the common buzzword. To opponents, these homes are never the “right location.”

The other day, I drove by Mazarine Lodge, a three-storey wood-frame modular apartment building with 44 self-contained units.

It’s a clean design and modern. It fits in perfectly with the rest of this neighbourhood. It even has a bus stop right out front for easy transportation.

Each unit has a private washroom and mini-kitchen. Shared amenities include a laundry room, commercial kitchen and a dining lounge area where residents can enjoy meals together. The building also has a medical room to provide on-site care for residents.

The Elizabeth Fry Society, an experienced non-profit operator, is overseeing the day-to-day management of the building and will provide residents with support services, such as daily meals, life-skills education, nutrition management, access to volunteer and employment opportunities and wellness supports. At least two staff members will be on site 24/7.

"Everyone deserves a good, safe place to call home," said Judy Darcy, MLA for New Westminster. "We're proud to be working with our partners to create homes like these for women in need that will help them stabilize their lives and build a better future. When we come together and support one another, we build a safer and healthier community for everyone."

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.


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