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Grand opening made sweeter with provincial funding

Wayne Massey (left), board chair of Ruth & Naomi’s Mission, takes a group of visitors on a tour of the new homeless shelter during its grand opening on Saturday.  - JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS
Wayne Massey (left), board chair of Ruth & Naomi’s Mission, takes a group of visitors on a tour of the new homeless shelter during its grand opening on Saturday.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS

Ruth & Naomi's Mission reps were surprised to receive a cheque for $387,000 from the provincial government in Chilliwack Saturday.

More than 400 people attended the grand opening of their new building downtown at the corner of Margaret Avenue and Fletcher Street.

"It was a wonderful grand opening celebration," said Wayne Massey, Ruth & Naomi's board chair.

The turnout is proof positive the community has taken ownership of Ruth & Naomi's, he underlined, a faith-based ministry which feeds and houses the homeless of Chilliwack.

"We were also most fortunate to receive an amazing contribution to the project, delivered in person by Chilliwack MLA John Les."

They had applied for funding to cover the environmental cleanup costs, but had been awaiting word on the result of their application.

The $1-million project ended up with a $450,000 mortgage after the construction of the new building, due to an expensive environmental remediation process to remove underground contamination at the former dry cleaners site.

The newly announced funding from the BC government will almost completely erase the project's debt.

"It means we're almost out of the woods now," said Massey.

The building's assessed value is estimated at almost $1.5 million.

"We think this will become a catalyst for downtown redevelopment," said Massey. "We have worked hard to build a facility to address the issues faced by those in need, which will eventually make it more attractive for investment and redevelopment in downtown Chilliwack."

The new building will allow them to offer expanded services at Ruth & Naomi's. In addition to feeding the needy in a new dining hall with a new commercial grade kitchen, they will also offer transitional housing spaces upstairs.

"This means so much to those people in Chilliwack who are marginalized and in need," he said of the new building.

About half of the money raised so far were provided by Chilliwack donors and in-kind contributions.

"It's a real testament to the love shown by the people of Chilliwack," he said.

About $87,000 of the provincial cheque will cover fees related to obtaining the provincial certificate of compliance, and the other $300,000 will pay for the remediation process.

But they still have to furnish the eight rooms that will provide housing for street people. Some of the offices and a classroom have already been furnished, but they are seeking donations to finish the rooms, he said.

The cost is more than $1,000 for each of the seven or eight remaining rooms.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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