The 16-unit supportive housing building for youth, seen here on Tuesday, July 14, 2020, is located at 46003 Mellard Ave. in Chilliwack. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

New youth housing in Chilliwack comes with wrap-around supports

The 16-unit building on Mellard Avenue will be for youth experiencing homelessness or at risk of it

New supportive housing for youth is opening this fall just off Young Road in downtown Chilliwack to give some young people a chance at a bright future.

It’s the next critical piece in the housing continuum for Chilliwack with this project offering housing specifically geared for youth who are experiencing homelessness — or at risk of it.

“Young people in our province should always have a safe and secure home,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Many of the new residents who’ll be moving into the smart-looking building will be coming out of situations of abuse, poverty, exploitation and drugs.

The 2017 FVRD Homeless Count findings revealed that 50 out of the 221 people in Chilliwack who self-identified as homeless were youth under the age of 19. That means homeless kids accounted for 22 per cent of the 2017 total. Even worse young people made up 44 per cent of the total in the 2014 Homeless Count snapshot.

That high proportion of homeless youth is unique to Chilliwack in the Fraser Valley.

The residents of this new housing will get wrap-around support services and at least two staff members will be on site 24/7. The project was funded by the Province of B.C. with partners City of Chilliwack and Cyrus Centre, the service provider.

“Cyrus Centre is thrilled with the purchase of the Mellard Avenue property and recognizes this would not have been possible without the support of BC Housing, the mayor, council and City of Chilliwack staff,” said Les Talvio, executive director of the Cyrus Centre.

Located at 46003 Mellard Ave., the just-renovated building features eight one-bedroom suites and eight two-bedroom suites, each with its own washroom, kitchen and laundry facilities, for a total of 16 units. With only five beds at the existing Cyrus Centre in Chilliwack, the 16 additional new suites will make a big difference.

“Once again, Chilliwack is setting the standard for other communities to follow,” Talvio said. “This property will allow for youth to overcome barriers to housing and develop the skills necessary for success.”

Cyrus Centre is a proven housing provider in the non-profit sector in Abbotsford and Chilliwack, and will run the new housing facility, providing meals, clothing, advocacy, schooling, counselling and life-skills training.

The building was purchased for $3.89 million by the province through the Supportive Housing Fund. The City of Chilliwack chipped in $450,000.

“Chilliwack’s Homelessness Action Plan first identified the need for additional supportive youth housing in 2016, recognizing that youth experiencing homelessness are some of the most vulnerable members of our society,” said Ken Popove, mayor, City of Chilliwack. “We are pleased to support the province’s investment in our community and look forward to seeing the building open to its new residents.”

The building has been beautifully renovated with modern finishes. It has a shared kitchen, dining area, storage and amenity space, and a dedicated supportive services suite for on-site staff.

People living in the building will range from 16 and 24 years. Residents will apply through the Ministry of Children and Family Development or be self-referred. They won’t be required to be receiving services from the ministry to qualify.

“This new housing for youth is an important step to help them achieve their dreams and build the future they want and deserve,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development. “Ministry staff will be on hand to help youth access the resources they need and provide them with the right tools and supports so they can get back on their feet.”

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The 16-unit supportive housing building for youth, seen here on Tuesday, July 14, 2020, is located at 46003 Mellard Ave. in Chilliwack. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

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