If ‘home is where the heart is’ then the Hope Centre promises to house more than an ample supply of heart. At the open house on Tuesday, media was able to explore the grounds, check out a few of the low-income rental rooms and meet with several people involved in the project.
Upon arriving for an inside peek at Sooke’s newest rental and community centre, it was a pleasant surprised to learn that the building also houses Sooke’s first underground parking lot, strategically solving the lack of parking space in the area. The spaciousness and welcoming storefront is also a kind of homecoming for St. Vincent de Paul’s thrift store which was originally located on the current grounds.
The Hope Centre is a joint project between the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Vancouver Island and the M’akola Housing Society.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SSVP) has been the property owners for over 25 years, donating the land in the venture with the M’akola Housing Society who equaled the generous donation in cash. The two societies came together to meet the highest and best use for the land and the Hope Centre is the end result of the shared vision.
Angela Hudson from the SSVP quoted the international society’s mandate, “To serve in hope” as the inspiration for naming the centre. She said the Social Concern Office which it shares with the M’akola Society will work in tandem with community agencies to provide a 1,200 square foot space for educational and mixed use services.
Kevin Albers, Chief Executive Officer from the M’akola Group of Societies discussed the need for affordable housing for aboriginal and non-aboriginal singles in the Sooke area. M’akola are effectively the landlords of the Hope Centre. He emphasized that the perception of the building as a ‘half-way’ house is wrong-headed. Sooke has been identified as needing affordable rentals for tenants between 19 to 31.
Residents will begin moving into the building before the end of the month.
A tour of a bachelor and single rooms provided a brief glimpse into the bright and well-built rooms in the four-storey building.
Over a few slices of pizza, locals expressed about their thoughts on the centre. Natasha Ruby, a hopeful applicant, was excited at the possibility of local affordable housing and delighted by the possibility of living in a building with both a yoga studio and a thrift store.
The yoga centre will be free for residents and the thrift store, which opens September 15, has tripled in size to 3,000 square feet allowing an expanded drop-off and on-site sorting area.
Not everyone agrees with this sentiment. Trevor Hinch, the tech support for the building believes the rent is too low.
“It’s too good of a deal,” he said. “The low rent will exclude people in the area who can afford higher rent that are looking for such a high quality room… it’s not fair for everyone.” He added the centre was also looking to have free wireless support in the building but as of now the suites all include the option of individual hook-ups.
Amy Rubidge from Ahimsa Yoga and Wellness feels that fear, a default emotion in many people, was keeping them from embracing the higher good that the Hope Centre would bring to the community.
“People fear the unknown,” she said. “It is education that brings light to the dark heart. Hope is beautiful. It starts with a sense of belonging and it begins in our own bodies’ sense of well-being,” she concluded.
Her friend Chantal Ettles agreed.
“Hope is what starts a fire in the heart.
The heart doesn’t just want to survive, it wants to thrive. It begins in hope.”