In Vancouver, it’s common to see derelict homes sit behind construction fences for months – or even years – while companies wait to tear them down in favour of larger developments.
READ MORE: Empty houses drawing squatters across Vancouver’s Cambie Corridor
But in Richmond, a limited program run by a non-profit that has seen homeless people live in buildings set to be torn down has gotten rave reviews from all sides.
“It helps everyone,” says Clive Alladin, COO of Balandra Development, who has allowed homeless people to live in a house he was waiting to redevelop.
“It helps us, because what can you do with a place for nine months. It helps neighbours, because they feel it’s occupied and not a derelict abandoned building that attracts unsavory elements. It worked well for us, the fire department is quite happy because we don’t have a vacant abandoned building.”
The program has been run by Chimo Community Services the last three years, offering housing at a reduced price – sometimes only charging a dollar, or nothing at all. So far, 26 people have been permanently rehoused, with 11 others currently being helped.
“This gives us as workers time to work with them find proper housing,” says Neena Randhawa, Program Coordinator for Chimo.
“[We] get them on income assistance, see if they need ID, what other services they need.”
Municipalities all around the lower mainland are taking note and asking Chimo for help, but they need funding for a full-time person to oversee this project. A spokesperson with BC Housing they’re currently reviewing the request.
“[Chimo] provides a great option for those at risk and homeless,” said City of Richmond spokesperson Ted Townsend, who says the city works with Chimo to ensure the utilities are connected and houses are safe.
“Vacant and abandoned homes can be an issue…having somebody in those homes address that.”