A new temporary supportive housing facility for women and gender-diverse people experiencing homelessness is set to open next month at the former Waverley Inn in Halifax's south end.
"The city needs a whole continuum of supports and services, from new affordable housing stock with no supports, to 24/7 wrap-around support care," said Miia Suokonautio, executive director of YWCA Halifax, in an interview Friday.
"What this does for those people who will be living there is, hopefully, it gets them out of the homelessness system."
Officials with the Department of Community Services say priority will be given to people who currently don't have a home and are on a waiting list maintained by the Halifax Regional Municipality.
The former hotel on Barrington Street will have a maximum capacity of 32 residents and YWCA Halifax will provide 24-hour on-site support including referrals to mental health and addictions counselling, employment services and skills training.
The development is a partnership between the provincial government — which is providing $1.9 million for staff, programming and the lease — and Grafton Developments. The company, which was in the process of restoring the property and adding a 10-storey addition to the back of the building, has said it will put a hold on its development plans for at least the next three years while the inn is used for housing.
Trevor Boudreau is Nova Scotia's minister of community services. (CBC)
"This is such an interesting collaboration between different sectors. It's a private partner who says, 'We have a resource that we can bring to bear to help on this issue.' It's the province coming to the table saying, 'OK, this is what we can provide.' To some extent, it's HRM ... And it's also a non-profit service provider saying, 'This is what we can play,'" Suokonautio said.
"That's when we're at our best as a community."
The sentiment was echoed by Community Services Minister Trevor Boudreau who said in an interview Friday that the partnership was crucial.
"I think what you're seeing here is everybody's coming to say, 'Hey, we have a role to play,' and I will tell you as minister, this is kind of like music to my ears," Boudreau said.
"We sense the urgency, we know there's lots to do, but when you have partners that want to step up … for Nova Scotians and certainly our most vulnerable, it's really encouraging and it's motivating, too."
He added that this plan follows other public-private housing partnerships with the province including the tiny home community in Lower Sackville announced last month.
The tiny home community will go on this ball field on Cobequid Road in Lower Sackville where many tents have been popping up over the past year. (Pat Callaghan/CBC)
"It's very important that we recognize that these partnerships are what really are needed for us to do what we need to do," he added.
Suokonautio said the YWCA is constantly getting calls from people looking for a place to live.
"What it does is it creates a safe, secure, supported landing space … and then, ideally, you move on with your life," she said. "Our hope is that we can demonstrate that people can move out of the homelessness system with adequate housing and supports."
She added that the YWCA does not know what will happen once the three years are up, but if the residents need to move, the YWCA will work in advance to find new housing options.
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