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Home at last for Chilliwack's most vulnerable

Modular housing units that kept Olympic athletes warm and cosy in 2010 are now home to 33 of Chilliwack's most at risk of homelessness.

The Village was opened Friday afternoon with a ribbon-cutting by the multi-stakeholder partnership that helped build the four-storey affordable housing structure on School Street.

Nine of the current tenants were once on the street, six were couch-surfing, four had unsafe living conditions and one couldn't find a place to house a dependent child.

"Now I'm excited because it's reality, this is my home," said tenant Eric Hunken, a client with the Creative Centre Society.

Feeling "safe and secure" in a stable living environment has made all the difference, and Hunken said he is now clean, sober and working part-time.

Named to echo the Olympic Athletes' Village, The Village is already full with 22 reconfigured units for adults with mental health issues, and 11 for youth at risk for homelessness.

Reps from the City of Chilliwack, the province, as well as Chilliwack Community Services and the Creative Centre Society spoke in glowing terms about the partnership that manifested the ambitious supportive housing project into reality in just 17 months since the ground-breaking.

"This is really an indication of what Chilliwack is all about," said Fred Feistmann of the Creative Centre Society board.

The L-shaped building is actually the culmination of years of hard work, negotiation, and commitment by the partners.

The province chipped in about $8.3 million through a provincial infrastructure grant, with land worth about $1 million, and just under $300,000 for annual operating costs. Chilliwack Community Services Society was responsible for $400,000 in equity and the City of Chilliwack waived development fees estimated at $311,651.

Chilliwack was one of six B.C. communities to get a share of 330 decommissioned temporary housing units, used to house Olympic athletes in Whistler during the 2010 Winter Olympics. The pre-fabricated modular units built were by Britco Structures and were added to the L-shaped structure after the ground floor was built.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

twitter.com/CHWKjourno

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