For nearly two years, the Choices Transitional Shelter in View Royal has housed 42 formerly homeless people. But funding from the provincial government could potentially breathe new life into the property in the coming months.
Our Place Society, that operates Choices, has recently been in discussions with the provincial government to transform the facility at 94 Talcott Rd. into a therapeutic recovery community.
“We’re very positive about it and we’re really looking forward to that,” said Our Place spokesperson Grant McKenzie. “We’re still talking to the government and we’re hoping we can get everything on board and if that happens, then in April we can really get the ball rolling … We’re pretty positive that we have a lot of support out there and can make this a reality.”
The goal of the therapeutic recovery community is to end the cycle of addiction, homelessness and criminality. As part of the program, residents would come to the peer-led program through the court system or following a detox program, and would stay at the facility for a two-year period, where they would focus on sobriety and recovering from their addictions. The program would start with roughly 15 individuals and can house a maximum of 50.
There will be no drug and alcohol use allowed on the property and individuals will not be free to come and go as they wish.
In the end, the hope is that every individual who graduates from the program will be in control of their addiction, have a place to live, a job and the life skills necessary to live in the wider community.
The format is patterned after the San Patrignano youth recovery community in Italy, where more than 1,300 residents are learning valuable life lessons and gaining personal and leadership skills to allow them to move forward positively in their lives.
“What we want to do is try and break that cycle of people living on the streets, going to jail, being let back out on the streets and back in jail,” said McKenzie, noting there is a similar program in Nanaimo, but it is much shorter and linked to the prison.
But before the project can move forward, funding still needs to be secured. Our Place is asking the province to kick in $4.7 million over a seven year period, with $1.3 million in the first year, $1 million in the second and $800,000 in the third year. McKenzie hopes to hear back from the provincial government by the end of March on funding.
Thus far, Our Place has come up with more than $1 million of its $1.2-million goal in private donations as well, with the goal of making the facility self-sustaining in the future.
Our Place will also need to apply for rezoning with the Town of View Royal, at which time there will be public consultation.
View Royal Mayor David Screech said the facility is one the Town is “cautiously supportive” of.
“It needs to go through public consultation obviously to get neighbourhood input,” he said, noting the property is zoned for a youth custody centre.
“I’ve heard support [from residents] and I’ve also heard concerns. I think the one thing that I’ve certainly heard and that I agree with is this type of facility is very much needed in our region.”
How cool is this? To celebrate the final Bingo game being held at Choices in View Royal (the transitional home is closing down, and all residents are being moved into other housing before end of March) our two Bingo volunteers baked and decorated this fabulous cake 🙂 #yyj pic.twitter.com/W0uRbBHZrB
— Our Place Society (@ourplacesociety) January 30, 2018
At the end of March, the Choices facility will officially close and the 42 residents living at the site will transition to the former Tally Ho Hotel on Douglas Street.
The site was purchased by the provincial government last April, and has since been transformed into supportive housing for 52 people with low to moderate incomes. If all goes according to plan, McKenzie hopes to have its first occupants move into the View Royal facility community sometime in the fall.