Stepping Up

Calgary builders team up to bring assisted-living facility to Beltline

Calgarians lacking a proper place to call home are set to be given a helping hand thanks to a collaborative effort from 12 Calgary-area builders.

Stepping Stone Manor, which will be the first of eight apartment buildings to be constructed in the next four years, will be a 30-unit facility in the Beltline community.

Starting next summer, the $4.65-million facility will provide housing for 30
formerly homeless Calgarians, complete with on-site support services.

The project is being made possible thanks to RESOLVE, a private-sector
fundraising campaign set on raising $120 million to build affordable rental housing,
with social service supports, for 3,000 people in Calgary.

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“The more the free market moves up, the more different people end up moving down the housing ladder,” said RESOLVE Chair and Brookfield Residential Properties CEO Alan Norris.

“So we squeeze more people at the bottom end, and that’s the unfortunate reality
of today’s economics. So we have to do something about it.”

Calgary currently has the lowest rental vacancy rate in Canada, and rents in the city are among the fastest-growing in Canada. While the Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF) has provided housing for more than 5,000 people since 2008, as part of the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness, estimates place the number of homeless in the city around 3,500 with another 14,000 at risk of homelessness.

It costs roughly $35,000 less per person per year to provide housing, with
social supports, than to cycle people through expensive public support systems,
according to the foundation.

Studies conducted by the Calgary Homeless Foundation have shown the Housing First model in Calgary results in fewer interactions with emergency services,
including a 95 per cent reduction in incarcerations.

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Estimates have put the amount the Canadian government spends on the homeless at $4.5 billion yearly.

“No one gets up in the morning and says, ‘I want to be homeless today’,” said Cedarglen Living CEO Scott Haggins. “Sometimes, they’ve just had a bad break in life and need to get their feet back on the ground. They just need a helping hand.

“No one wants to remain homeless for the rest of their life. Some people have mental disorders and things like that and that’s how they end up in certain situations. Those [are the] people we want to help.”

Cedarglen Living and Brookfield are being joined on the project by Albi Homes, Calbridge Homes, Cardel Lifestyles, Centron Group of Companies, Homes by Avi,
Hopewell Residential, Jayman Group of Companies, Morrison Homes, Qualico and Shane Homes Ltd.

The 12 builders will donate 30 per cent of the projects $37-million price tag, while the Alberta Ministry of Municipal Affairs will commit grants for the remaining 70 per cent.

The biggest obstacle in assisting those in need is more geographical than financial, Haggins said.

“We need 350 rooms as soon as possible. So we’re talking 10 buildings. The money is available. The government is supporting it. We’re supporting it. It’s a case of finding
the sites,” said Haggins, adding completion of this first project will help convince other Calgarians of the project’s potential.

“I think getting this one underway is to show the people in the area these are going to be respectable establishments,” he said. “We’re helping people in need so let’s all work together as a society and make this possible. I think by getting the first
[facility] and demonstrating what we’re doing, that’s going to make a big difference.”

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Once completed, the CHF will partner with social service providers to help tenants access health services, education and budget support, addiction treatment, as well as assist in reconnection with family and integration into the community.

Stepping Stone Manor will feature common rooms on each floor, a shared dining room, meeting rooms and security and safety systems.

Access by tenants and guests will be monitored by on-site staff. Alberta’s Human Services Minister Manmeet Bhullar, who was on hand for the kick-off, echoed the need for co-operation.

“The fact is that we are the only province with a 10-year plan to end homelessness, and we are a province and a city that is a magnet for many around the world to come and not everyone brings a doctorate in their pocket. So there are challenges that we continue to face,” said Bhullar. “And we can’t face them alone. We have to face them as a collective. This is a perfect example of that.”

For more information on the RESOLVE Campaign and Calgary’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness, visit the RESOLVE Campaign webiste or calgaryhomeless.com.

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