Just hours after some downtown residents celebrated the sooner-than-planned shutdown of The Portal homeless shelter, the provincial government formally announced its purchase of the former Travelodge Hotel where many of the people will be moving.
The province, through BC Housing, purchased the 82-unit hotel on Yale Road near Highway 1. The short-term plan is that some of the 48 residents of The Portal will move there, a facility that will be managed by Ruth and Naomi’s Mission (RAN), with others moving to the other RAN facility on Margaret Avenue.
This is a temporary solution while the new combined supportive housing/shelter is completed on Rowat and Trethewey avenues by early 2022, according to Mayor Ken Popove.
“The pandemic has shone a light on the work that still needs to be done to ensure everyone in our community has the opportunity to be housed,” Popove said in a press release issued by the provincial government Tuesday afternoon. “We are grateful that the Province recognizes this need in our community and look forward to working further with BC Housing on supportive housing options.”
In that same release, Housing Minister David Eby said the homes will help those experiencing homelessness being a recovery with dignity.
“With this purchase, we are continuing to add to the significant efforts underway with community and local government partners in Chilliwack to tackle the housing crisis and build the homes people urgently need,” Eby said.
Each of the units at the former hotel has its own washroom, kitchenette and storage space.
“Staff will be on-site 24/7 and will provide residents with supports such as daily meals, mentorship, life skill training, wellness checks and referrals to health services,” according to the government press release.
Since April 2020, BC Housing leased 44 rooms at the hotel as temporary housing for vulnerable people during the COVID-19 pandemic. By purchasing the hotel, those residents will be able to remain in the building, while the remaining units will be available for other people experiencing homelessness in the community.
RAN’s Oasis Residential Addictions Treatment Services Program will also be moved to this site. Twenty rooms will be designated to the program. The treatment program was previously based out of Ruth and Naomi’s Margaret Avenue location. This move will free up space at the Margaret Avenue shelter to accommodate guests from The Portal shelter, which is set to close on July 15.
While the Travelodge site is not currently zoned for use as supportive housing, the City of Chilliwack is allowing operation of the building on a temporary basis due to the pandemic.
In the coming months, BC Housing intends to submit a proposal to the city to rezone the site, with the intention of securing these much-needed supportive homes for permanent use.
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