Tenants are expected to begin moving in by the end of this month to the newest of 14 supportive-housing projects planned for the city.
The Kettle on Burrard, operated by the Kettle Society, is a 16-storey, 141-unit housing complex located across the street from St. Paul’s Hospital.
The building will house people who have been homeless, living in single-room occupancy hotels, or at risk of homelessness.
Nancy Keough, the executive director of the Kettle Society, noted the organization received 1,200 applications during a two-week period for the 141 spots available in the building.
“It’s really important to build these kinds of buildings and have these units,” she said in an interview at the new housing site this week.
She said the project is one of the largest the society has operated. It currently runs 350 other units of supported housing, in addition to programs including a mental health drop-in centre and a transition house for women.
Ed Barnes, a former resident at Kettle Society building Triumph Apartments, credits his time at that building with helping him to overcome his drug addiction.
“It was a different atmosphere, and it made me feel that I could live again without drugs and the more I lived there the more I kept not using drugs,” he said in an interview.
During his ten years at the building, he also learned skills including how to cook.
“I guess Triumph Apartment in their own way kind of taught me how to look after myself…and to live on my own without feeling too out of place,” he added.
Tenants at the Kettle on Burrard will also have access to life-skills supports like learning how to cook and do laundry, said Janet Smith, the director of housing for the Kettle Society.
“So often people that are living on the streets, they’ve been heavily traumatized, and they have goals, but they don’t think any of their goals are attainable,” she said in an interview.
“So it’s [about] making people realize that yes your goals are important, you’re part of community, and it’s important that we value you as a community member. So we work on small goals to help build self-esteem and giving them hope and change,” she said in an interview.
She noted the first goal for staff in the building is “to make sure people feel safe”.
“That is why we have really good types of security for people getting into the building,” she said.
The facility features a lounge, commercial kitchen, TV room, library, and outdoor space, including a community garden. Eleven full-time program staff members will be employed at the site, including mental-health and life-skills support workers.
“One of our biggest things is to help break isolation, get people together, which is why we have this communal space, which is really important,” said Keough.
Barnes recalls the importance of social contact with other residents for him when he lived at Triumph Apartments.
“You can come down for a cup of coffee, you can have a meal, and you can have a friend to talk to if you need somebody to talk to if you’re bored and lonely, and you don’t have to just sit there and stare at the walls,” he stated.
The former Kettle Society resident is now living independently with his girlfriend, who he is set to marry this August.
“Nowadays, I feel great that I haven’t used drugs in about 16 or 17 years, and I’m looking forward to living the rest of my life with my girlfriend,” he said.
The Kettle on Burrard is the latest site to open as part of an agreement for 14 supportive-housing projects on city-owned land, with construction funded by the provincial government.