Hope for Sooke homeless

Plans for affordable housing for youth and young adults in the works

The Hope Centre, an affordable housing project, geared towards aboriginal and non-aborignal youth in Sooke and the Greater Victoria area has been given a federal funding jump start.

The Capital Regional District board approved a recommendation to distribute $1.8 million from the Federal Homelessness Partnering Strategy to the centre on Oct.10.

The  project’s total cost is  $5.9 million.

The Hope Centre, which is a partnership between the M’akola Housing Society and Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, will be located on 6750 West Coast Road.

According to Angela Hudson, Society of Saint Vincent de Paul executive director, the four-storey building will be developed on the site currently occupied by the society’s thrift store.

It will have 25 units for youth under the age of 19 and young adults over the age of 19.

“The majority of them will be low-income and this is a low-income building, but some of the suites will be a little bit higher income, not market necessarily, but they’ll be higher,” Hudson said.

Space on the bottom level has been allocated for the thrift store, and the second floor has been designated for education facilities and a social concern office.

“We won’t be duplicating services we have downtown, but we’ll be talking to the service providers in Sooke to see where there’s needs and gaps and things that we can sort of fill,” Hudson said.

She said some of the services that have been identified as possibilities include a free income tax program to low-income families and singles, a meeting space, counselling, and home visitors to go and work with the people in Sooke.

The project came about after a needs assessment performed in Sooke identified a need for housing, subsidized housing and low-income housing in the area.

“What we’re looking at doing is reaching out to the population of youth that is aboriginal as well as non,” Hudson said.

The Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness acts as an advisory board to the CRD, making recommendations on project selections for Federal Homelessness Partner Strategy funding, and identified the Hope Centre as a top priority.

According to Andrew Wynn-Williams, Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness executive director, the Hope Centre was identified as a priority out of three other projects, because of its focus on aboriginal and non-aboriginal youth, and the introduction of homelessness services to an outlying area.

“Homelessness is not a downtown Victoria issue. It’s a regional issue and this was one of the proposals put on our table that really identified an area that lacked the services it needed,” he said.

“We were thrilled to actually see such a strong proposal come in from an area that really needs it.”

The M’akola Housing Society and Society of Saint Vincent de Paul are currently looking at grants to lower the cost of the building in order to operate without an ongoing subsidy from BC Housing.