Civic leaders celebrate low-income housing victory 0
Paul West, 41, reattaches a "Welcome Home" card to the fridge in his Karis Place apartment. The building features low-income supportive housing for individuals who are at risk of being homeless. (STEPHANIE IP/ 24 HOURS)
As the city celebrated two new supportive housing developments Tuesday, another community group is calling on the public to change its perceptions of the homeless.
Civic leaders gathered Tuesday to officially open Karis Place and Station Street, a $50-million low-income housing project funded by federal, provincial and municipal governments. The two buildings feature 185 low-income units and are built according to the highest green construction standard.
Paul West, who moved into Karis Place in June, bounced between friends' couches and the streets prior to the lengthy application process that landed him the new apartment.
Today, he pays $375 a month for his 320-square-feet studio apartment on the eighth floor of 1338 Seymour St.
"I have the opportunity to create my own life. I've never had that," the unemployed wood artisan said of his bare apartment and the slow process of building his own furniture. "I'm really grateful."
Along with Housing Minister Rich Coleman and Minister of State Alice Wong, Mayor Gregor Robertson commended all three levels of government for the teamwork that went into the project. The official opening coincided with Homelessness Action Week.
"We surely have turned the tide on homelessness but our work isn't done," he said, citing the city's street homelessness count was more than 800 in 2008 but has since dropped to 145.
Meanwhile, a local housing group hopes people will open their eyes to what they call the "new face of homelessness."
"Most people are just a paycheque away from homelessness," said Karen O'Shannacery, executive director of the Lookout Society.
She said many of today's homeless are victims of layoffs and not necessarily drug and alcohol addictions. Along with the high price of rent in Vancouver, O'Shannacery said individuals who find themselves homeless are often embarrassed at losing their jobs and lack the resources to recover.
She adds perceptions are often based on the most visible section of the homeless community: the mentally ill and the addicted.
"It's important for people to understand the homeless are a diverse population. They're just like the rest of us."