Aboriginal and Metis seniors at risk of homelessness will soon be getting new rooves over their heads as a result of a joint venture to create 35 new supportive homes close to the city’s downtown core.
Ground was broken Friday on the third phase of the project at 1919 17th Ave., to create a day care and three-storey building with 35 studio units, each with a kitchenette and washroom. Construction of the BC Housing project will be covered by an $11.4 million Supportive Housing Fund provincial grant and the land is provided by the Aboriginal Housing Society of Prince George, who will operate the housing development.
"Thanks to the help and vision of the Aboriginal Housing Society of Prince George, these 35 new homes will provide the supports and care that older people experiencing homelessness in Prince George need to live independently with dignity," said David Eby, Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing, in a prepared statement. "Our government will continue to do its part to make projects like this a reality - including encouraging the federal government to match our Indigenous housing investments."
Seniors who identify as Aboriginal or Metis will be given priority for tenancy. Tenants will have access to 24/7 health and wellness support services, daily meals, life/employment skills training. AHSPG will provide culturally appropriate supports and programming that boosts physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being and the society will have at least two staff members present on the site.
The entire project will eventually have 200 affordable housing units on the 2.8-hectare site. Construction of the first phase to build a 50-unit townhouse in five two-storey buildings development along Bowser Avenue began in 2018 and full occupancy is expected by the end of this year. Phase 2 construction started this past spring to build a 57-unit structure for multi-family/senior dwellings. The existing AHSPG centre will be expanded to provide additional space for learning, gathering and cultural activities.
The on-site day care will have spaces for 40 children, supported by a $1.5 million grant from the province’s Childcare NBC New Spaces Fund, with additional support from the Prince George Native Friendship Centre.
"The Childcare BC New Spaces Fund is supporting this new innovative project, which will allow more urban Indigenous families to access the affordable, quality and inclusive child care they need," said Katrina Chen, BC’s Minister of State for Child Care. "The new childcare facility will help Indigenous children connect to their community, culture and heritage for generations to come."
The 17th Avenue project is slated for completion in the spring of 2022. The community will be maintained through a yearly $1.2 operating grant. The development is the first of its kind in Canada.
“We are very excited to have the supportive housing project as part of the Urban Aboriginal Community,” said AHSPG executive director Kim Hamilton. "Not only will it provide homes for our most vulnerable seniors, but our hope is that these seniors will become part of the community and will have the opportunity to pass on their knowledge to younger generations within this community.”
AHSPG currently serves close to 500 people in Prince George on the traditional territory of the Lheidli T’enneh, providing safe, healthy and affordable housing provides safe, healthy, and affordable housing for Aboriginal people of all incomes, ages, and capabilities.