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New temporary supportive housing opens in Richmond

By Richmond Sentinel

Published 11:33 PDT, Tue September 20, 2022

Last Updated: 4:25 PDT, Tue September 20, 2022

People experiencing or at risk of homelessness in Richmond are moving into new safe and secure homes with the opening of a 40-unit temporary supportive housing building.

"Aster Place is another important component of the city's homelessness strategy and an example of how partnerships can result in housing for those residents experiencing or at risk of homelessness,” says Mayor Malcolm Brodie. “The City of Richmond, BC Housing, the Ministry of Attorney General and Responsible for Housing, and Community Builders have worked together on this project to connect with tenants in need, understand the supportive services required and provide a safe and stable housing environment.”

Located at 2520 Smith St., Aster Place is a three-storey modular building with 40 self-contained units, each with a private washroom and kitchenette. The building has a commercial kitchen, laundry facilities, and storage space.

“The City of Richmond remains committed to being a leader that works with our community organizations and partners to provide options for those residents who have no home,” adds Brodie. “Since adopting the Richmond Homelessness Strategy in 2019, council has supported a myriad of new projects and initiatives to create and expand access to emergency and extreme weather shelter beds, drop-in support services, and other resources to reduce and prevent homelessness in our community.”

Aster Place will provide housing for about 30 people living in Richmond's temporary Emergency Response Centre (ERC), which has provided safe accommodation for vulnerable people during the COVID-19 pandemic and will now close. Guests were assisted to move to Aster Place by the ERC operator, Turning Point Recovery Society. Vacancies in the building will be filled by other people in the community who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness.

"The Richmond Emergency Response Centre was a vital resource for our community during the pandemic, helping vulnerable people stay safe and healthy during a time of uncertainty,” says Richmond South Centre MLA Henry Yao. “Thank you to the Turning Point Recovery Society for operating this building over the past three years. Your hard work and dedication will always be appreciated."

Community Builders Group, an experienced local provider of affordable and supportive housing services, will operate Aster Place. Residents will be provided with support services, including daily meals, life-skills training, employment assistance and counselling, physical and mental-health resources, and access to addiction treatment and recovery services. On-site staff will provide around-the-clock support to residents.

"Community Builders has a wealth of experience in offering supportive housing services and being a good neighbour,” says Julie Roberts, executive director of Community Builders Group. “We can't wait to become part of the vibrant Richmond community. We believe this site is going to lead to a number of positive outcomes for its residents and for the area at large, and we look forward to the work of building relationships together and creating new homes and communities for Richmond residents that need them."

The name Aster Place comes from the aster flower, which represents love, hope and loyalty. It is also recognized as a September birth flower. Aster Place will operate for approximately three years while the City of Richmond and the province explore permanent housing solutions in the community.

The province, through BC Housing, provided about $9.5 million through the Homelessness Action Plan for the project, and will provide annual operating funding of approximately $1.24 million. The City of Richmond waived $250,000 in fees and provided the land for the project.

This project is part of the more than 35,000 new homes that are complete or underway for people in B.C. through provincial government investments made since 2017, including more than 200 homes in Richmond.

To learn more about the project, visit letstalkhousingbc.ca/richmond-smith.

The Richmond Homelessness Strategy outlines five strategic directions and 32 recommended actions. Since its release, the city has implemented various initiatives to support residents experiencing or at risk of homelessness. These include:

 • Opening the Richmond House Shelter on Horseshoe Way, a partnership with BC Housing and the Salvation Army that currently provides 45 year-round beds, three meals a day, shower and laundry facilities for women and men.

• Creating a drop-in centre at Brighouse Pavilion, operated by Turning Point Recovery Society, to provide laundry and shower access along with day-time supports, service navigation and referral, computer and literacy training, and healthy meals and snacks.

• Opening Richmond’s first winter warming centre, operated by The Salvation Army, to provide safe shelter and meals for up to 15 individuals at a time during extreme cold.

• Creating a multi-disciplinary team with Vancouver Coastal Health that provides clinical supports and outreach to vulnerable individuals experiencing homelessness.

• Working with the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction and Richmond RCMP’s Vulnerable Persons Unit to provide street outreach services to those experiencing homelessness on city land.

• Establishing the Alderbridge Supportive Housing project on Alderbridge Way to provide 40 safe and secure rental homes with support services, life-skills training, and access to primary health and mental health services.

• Creating a dedicated program lead for homelessness on staff to ensure the city prioritizes and allocates appropriate resources and partnerships to continue to address the challenges of homelessness in Richmond.

• Hosting a series of community conversations on homelessness, inviting residents to come together to discuss the meaning of home and homelessness and explore ideas about how people can take action to help foster a more inclusive community.

Recognizing stable housing is crucial to those experiencing or at risk of homelessness, the city continues to work with various levels of government to identify and fund opportunities for affordable, supportive and non-market rentals. Examples include:

• A partnership between the city, BC Housing, and Pathways Clubhouse on a new affordable rental housing development at 5491 No. 2 Rd. to provide 80 new affordable housing units for low and moderate-income households.

• Amendments to the zoning bylaw to use residential rental tenure legislation to protect 60 existing rental sites in the city, making Richmond one of only two municipalities that have protected existing rental sites using such legislation.

• An increase in the number of Low End Market Rental (LEMR) units to require at least 15 per cent of new residential apartment projects with 60 or more units within the city centre. This is among the highest levels in the region and Richmond has the only citywide program in Greater Vancouver that secures rental units below market rents.

• Amending the city’s Market Rental Housing Policy to make Richmond the only municipality with a mandatory citywide requirement for market rental units in all multi-family residential developments.

Since adopting its Affordable Housing Strategy over a decade ago, over 1,120 affordable rental units have been built and occupied across Richmond. Almost 900 more have been approved and/or are under development, while some 500 more are currently under review.

To learn more about the city’s Homelessness Strategy, click here.

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