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B.C., Vancouver partner to build modular housing in strategy to disperse street camps

Temporary homes will serve as a ‘bridge’ for people, David Eby says
British Columbia’s new Housing Ministry says the province is partnering with the City of Vancouver to build 90 modular housing units in two locations with round-the-clock supports for people experiencing homelessness in the Downtown Eastside. A temporary modular housing suite is visited by the public while on display in Robson Square in downtown Vancouver on Oct. 3, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ben Nelms

British Columbia and the City of Vancouver are building 90 modular housing units with round-the-clock supports for people experiencing homelessness, part of a strategy to disperse tent encampments that officials say are unsafe.

The units scheduled to open next March will be offered to people living in shelters, freeing up shelter spaces for people in encampments including those along Hastings Street and CRAB park in the city’s Downtown Eastside.

Premier David Eby told a news conference the temporary homes will serve as a “bridge” for people to access health supports and, eventually, permanent housing.

The modular units are set to operate for at least three years, and the premier said he expects that will be “more than enough time” for a number of permanent housing sites currently being developed in the city to open their doors.

The aim is to increase the “flow through” of people from shelters to temporary modular housing to supportive housing to affordable rental options, which the B.C. government is also aiming to expand as part of its $7-billion housing plan, he said.

It’s important to match people to housing based on their specific needs, Eby added. That’s why the modular units will be offered to those living in shelters, where their needs can be assessed to ensure the housing is a successful match, he said.

“Getting to know who’s who and what they need in that interim step of dignified shelter is really critical for us.”

Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said encampments offer a sense of community for some people, but they’re not a “safe or suitable form of long-term shelter.”

The modular units will have staff on-site to help connect residents with access to mental health and primary care, cultural programming and other supports, he said.

The prefabricated buildings will be constructed in two separate locations near the Science World and Olympic Village SkyTrain stations. The premier described them as two one-storey buildings in the style of “work camp” temporary housing.

“We can move faster with that particular type of housing. It’s available for us to respond quickly and that’s what we’re looking for,” Eby said.

Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim told the news conference the city is in the midst of one of the “greatest crises” in its history, and the announcement marks “meaningful progress” towards securing quality housing for the most vulnerable residents.

“This is not a permanent solution, but these projects will deliver much-needed housing quickly, freeing up additional capacity at shelters around the city,” he said.

The city has provided the land where the modular units will be built, while the province is contributing nearly $7 million for their construction, Eby said.

The Canadian Press

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