Grand Opening of Skwachàys Residence and Healing Lodge in Vancouver

Affordable homes with Aboriginal supports open in Vancouver

VANCOUVER — Skwachàys Healing Lodge has officially opened to provide affordable housing for thosewho are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, as well as healing lodge apartments for Aboriginal individuals travelling to Vancouver for medical treatment.

“Our government is proud to invest in this important community infrastructure project that will have a positive impact on the lives of Aboriginal people and their families,” said the Honourable John Duncan, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. “We will continue to support initiatives like this to strengthen communities, help protect those most vulnerable and promote the health, safety and well-being of Aboriginal people and all Canadians.”

“The Province is working in partnership with other levels of government and communities to help end homelessness and to create housing that helps people move off the streets permanently,” said Rich Coleman, British Columbia’s Minister of Energy and Mines and Minister Responsible for Housing. “This new building is now a safe home for 24 individuals and will provide interim housing for people seeking medical treatment.”

The recently completed housing development provides 24 affordable housing apartments for those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The building also provides 18 healing lodge apartments for Aboriginal individuals and their immediate family who need to travel to Vancouver from rural and remote communities for medical services. The building also includes a commercial kitchen, an art gallery and a basement workshop as well as culturally-appropriate services, such as a sweat lodge and smudge room, which provide space for spiritual cleansing and healing.

The building, located at 31 W. Pender St. in Vancouver, is on the site of the former Pender Hotel, one of 24 single-room occupancy hotels the Province purchased in Vancouver to preserve existing housing stock. The hotel was demolished with care to preserve the heritage façade of the original building.

Funding for Skwachàys Healing Lodge comes from a variety of sources. Federal funding includes $2.7 million under the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund as well as $451,500 through the Building Communities Through Arts and Heritage program of the Department of Canadian Heritage. The Province of British Columbia provided a $4.32-million grant, as well as land equity valued at approximately $2.8 million.

The City of Vancouver provided $490,000 and has waived development cost charges valued at approximately $156,000. Vancouver Native Housing Society is fundraising and contributing in kind funds of $261,000 and will be financing the remaining capital budget.

“Collaborative projects like the Skwachàys Healing Lodge demonstrate the remarkable progress that can be achieved to tackle homelessness when the community and all levels of government come together in creative partnerships,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson, City of Vancouver. “Vancouver’s population is only three per cent Aboriginal, but the 2012 Vancouver homeless count recently confirmed that over 30 per cent of Vancouver’s homeless population is of Aboriginal heritage. This important project helps to address the urgent need for new affordable housing in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in a manner that supports Aboriginal peoples and embraces their rich cultural traditions.”

“The Skwachàys name was given to the building by Chief Ian Campbell of the Squamish Nation. It reflects the traditional name for this area, which Chief Campbell referred to as a place of transformation.” said David Eddy, CEO of the Vancouver Native Housing Society. “We placed a traditional longhouse – the first longhouse built in downtown Vancouver since before contact – on top of the building for use as a healing lodge. The longhouse and 40.5-foot story pole make a unique statement of the value and importance of the first peoples that have inhabited this area for millennia. It will not only provide appropriate housing and services to those without a home, but it will also provide affordable, culturally appropriate housing for Aboriginal people travelling to Vancouver for health care during a time when they may be vulnerable and in need of support.”

Vancouver Native Housing Society manages and operates Skwachàys Healing Lodge and the adjacent site located at 27 W. Pender St., which provides 98 affordable apartments. For 20 years, the society has been dedicated to providing housing for the urban Aboriginal community. They also provide programs that enrich the lives of their tenants and others in the community.

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