There are only two rules at Penticton’s newest supportive housing complex: pay your rent and be nice.
“Be nice seems simple, but for some it takes several tries,” said Bob Hughes, executive director of ASK Wellness, which operates the 62-unit Burdock House on Winnipeg Street.
Hughes and other dignitaries gathered Thursday for the facility’s grand opening.
The first 10 tenants moved in on Monday, with the balance expected to arrive by the end of the week. Residents are hand-picked to provide a balance of people ranging from long-term homeless with serious addictions – those who might struggle at first to be nice after being kicked around by society – to others who have simply fallen on hard times
For just $375 per month, they receive a single room with attached washroom, meals, laundry and virtually any type of support they need, from basic life skills and job hunting to help accessing a pension and applying for school.
“Drug dealing, theft and violence will not be tolerated. We believe in good neighbours, being good neighbours, and expect that of ourselves and our residents,” said Hughes.
Also within the building is a small room off the dining hall where residents can inject drugs.
Hughes said similar rooms are used infrequently in other supportive housing complexes.
“It’s such a small part of the services for people we see here,” he added.
The room is of no interest to 24-year-old Benjamin Stanley, who was among the first 10 residents to move in.
The native of Oliver said he has multiple sclerosis and is unable to work. As a result, much of the rental housing market is off-limits to him. After bouncing between his parents’ and friends’ houses, he’s relieved to finally have a place to call his own.
“It feels great,” he said.
“Even just having meals provided to me is a great thing,” Stanley continued.
“I can’t stress enough how good the support is.”
Also on hand for the grand opening was B.C. Housing Minister Selina Robinson, who said people like Stanley “just fell out of the bottom of our housing crisis,” which arose because the former Liberal government “ignored the problem.”
The NDP government, she continued, has chosen instead to put people first with measures such as creating 2,000 units of supportive housing.
“Being able to write down an address so that people know where to find you, that’s an opportunity to move forward,” said Robinson.
“These are the building blocks that give people a chance to make a new start.”
The land and building cost $12.5 million, while ASK Wellness will also receive an annual operating subsidy.
For its part, the City of Penticton waived development cost charges that would have amounted to $288,000.
Burdock House is named for former ASK Wellness board member Miranda Burdick, a former Penticton resident, and burdock root, a natural remedy used to cleanse the body.
ASK Wellness is based in Kamloops, but also operates the Fairhaven supportive housing complex at the south end of Penticton.