If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes a town to back a supportive housing project.
It’s been open just over eight months but already Goodacre Place is living up to the selfless and charitable attitude of the former councillor from whom the 24-unit supportive housing project gets its namesake.
After officially opening its doors to residents on Mar. 1 individuals associated with the project have told The Interior News it is providing the type of long-term supportive housing for vulnerable individuals or those experiencing homelessness in the area that fills what was previously a large void in the region.
Prior to Goodacre Place, though housing options existed in the area for those experiencing homelessness, they were limited to shorter-term options.
The building, named in memory of former Town councillor Bill Goodacre was funded through $6.1 million in capital funding from the Province, which will also provide annual operating and support subsidies for the development.
The Town contributed $250,000 for site remediation and $149,800 in land equity.
But just because they had the funding, doesn’t mean it was easy.
Smithers Community Services Association (SCSA) executive director Catherine Olmstead said the organization experienced a tremendous outpouring of support from the local area, noting a number of churches whose various congregations contributed to the building by helping to furnish the somewhat minimalistic rooms.
“We had these little church ladies in competition with each other,” Olmstead joked.
“The rooms came with beds, dressers and lamps and they provided dishes, shower curtains, mops, household cleaning things, towels, dish cloths … and 22 little salt and pepper shakers — that’s pretty special.”
The project offers vulnerable individuals in the area a safe place to live.
Rent is $375 a month, which is equal to the social assistance shelter allowance provided by the Province to people experiencing homelessness.
But if you’re looking for a room, you’ll have to wait.
Currently the building is at capacity, with Goodacre Place’s housing manager Candis Crump estimating she has just under 80 applications from people interesting in renting a room.
Unlike other rental situations, however, rooms aren’t given out on a “first come, first served” basis.
“We have a responsibility to put the most vulnerable people in, so it’s not how long you’ve been on the list, it’s actually what you need,” said Olmstead.
“That’s determined by a group of service providers that kind of know what’s happening on the street and who is in the most need of housing.”
One of the conditions of living at the building is that residents sign a participant agreement which acknowledges they will abide by a number of rules set by the building.
As long as they follow these, they are welcome to stay as long as they want, with rooms only becoming available once someone has left the building.
And while it might not completely solve the issue of homelessness in the area, Olmstead said it helps.
“I’d say for 22 people it got a lot better.”
To better address the issue of homelessness and access to housing for the town’s vulnerable populations, Olmstead said she feels a piece of the puzzle is offering more services outside business hours.
“Right now in our community most of the services are provided 8:30 [a.m.] to 4:30 [p.m.] or 9 [a.m.] to 5 [p.m.] Monday to Friday and as we know from experience most crisis situations do not happen within that time frame.”
Olmstead said she feels another reason the project has been so successful is the connection between the staff and people living there and the time the Town took to consult with neighbours about the project.
“We were very adamant with BC housing around what we needed to operate it properly.”
Statistics also speak to the success.
When the SCSA was operating Broadway Place, Crump said the location had between 25 and 35 critical incidents per quarter — referring to a situation where the shelter has to involve an outside party such as the police or fire department.
Goodacre Place had three in its first six months.
“You think about how that impacts our tax dollars, right? Because then we’re not involving the police, we’re not involving the fire department and we’re not involving the ambulance,” she said.
Goodacre was born and raised in Smithers and contributed 12 years to the SCSA board throughout the organizations’ development.
Provincial funding for Goodacre Place came from the Province’s Building BC: Rapid Response to Homelessness program, which saw the Province invest $291 million to build 2,000 homes throughout B.C. and more than $170 million over the next three years to provide 24/7 staffing and support services to these new developments.