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Feds contribute $21M to Boyle Street’s new support centre in downtown Edmonton

Click to play video: '$21M in federal funding for Boyle Street’s new King Thunderbird Centre in Edmonton'
$21M in federal funding for Boyle Street’s new King Thunderbird Centre in Edmonton
A $21-million federal government cash injection is allowing Boyle Street Community Services to move ahead with plans for it's new facility: Okimaw Peyesew Kamik, or King Thunderbird Centre. As Jasmine King reports, it's a significant step in bringing the services for vulnerable Edmontonian back together under one roof. – May 3, 2024

With a $21-million grant from the federal government, Boyle Street Community Services has been able to gather $45 million in funding for a new multi-service support centre in downtown Edmonton.

The new 75,000-square-foot facility will help those dealing with homelessness and poverty. Boyle Street had to move from its aging site on 105 Avenue beside Rogers Place on Sept. 30, 2023, when its lease expired.

Since October, Boyle Street Community Services has been temporarily offering its programs and services at five locations, including the Bissell Centre East, the Mercer Building and a Co-lab near 96 Street and 102A Avenue.

Click to play video: 'New Boyle Street King Thunderbird Centre approved for construction in central Edmonton'
New Boyle Street King Thunderbird Centre approved for construction in central Edmonton

The new site, okimaw peyesew kamik — in English, the Cree name translates to King Thunderbird Centre — was originally set to open in late 2024. Now, the target is June 2025, according to Boyle Street. It’s two blocks from the original centre, near 107A Avenue and 101 Street.

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On Friday, officials announced $21 million from the government of Canada through the Green and Inclusive Community Buildings program grant. At least 10 per cent of that federal funding is allocated to projects serving First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities, including Indigenous groups in urban centres.

Boyle Street is contributing $24 million through its capital campaign.

Click to play video: 'Boyle Street Community Services to move immediately after lease not renewed'
Boyle Street Community Services to move immediately after lease not renewed

“It’s been over 10 years that Boyle Street has been trying to figure out how to do what’s now going to be done, which is King Thunderbird, okimaw peyesew kamik, which is going to be a transformative centre for our city, for First Nations, Metis, Inuit people, for people who need that support in our downtown core,” said Edmonton-Centre MP Randy Boissonnault.

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“It’s a $45-million-plus build and we put $21 million on the table today as the government of Canada.

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“I’ve been working on this since I got re-elected,” he said. “I worked on it in my first mandate. And we had to find the right infrastructure fund for this kind of investment. This is the largest investment that we’re making out of the Green Inclusive Building fund in Alberta in this round.”

The $45 million now accounted for does not include a disputed $5-million donation from the Katz Group to Boyle Street for the new building, a disagreement that is now before the courts.

Click to play video: 'Katz Group, Boyle Street in legal dispute over $5M donation pledge'
Katz Group, Boyle Street in legal dispute over $5M donation pledge

“This project has had lots of ups and downs,” said Jordan Reiniger, executive director of Boyle Street Community Services. “But with this investment, it removes all the uncertainty around this project. It will be built and we couldn’t be more excited.”

He said the total project will cost about $49.5 million.

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“We’re close enough that we can confidently say this is happening and we’re starting construction and we’re full steam ahead,” Reiniger said.

The new centre will be energy-efficient. The enhancements are expected to reduce the facility’s energy consumption by 99 per cent and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 709 tonnes annually.

It will offer an essential range of programs and services, including health, housing, substance abuse, ID and financial services, and an outdoor space for ceremonies and land-based healing.

Reiniger described the federal grant as “transformative,” allowing Boyle Street Community Services “to realize the full vision that we had for this project, and then even to enhance it some from there, which is allowing us to have a carbon-neutral building, sustainable for the long-term and decades to come.”

Friday’s announcement was an emotional one for many people there, including Boissonnault and Reiniger.

“It’s been a long journey to get to this place… and it’s been a whole community effort to get us here. There’s no one group that could have done something like this. It was the whole community.”

Click to play video: 'Boyle Street’s King Thunderbird Centre gets permits'
Boyle Street’s King Thunderbird Centre gets permits

Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi thanked Boissonnault for his advocacy and Boyle Street for its continued hard work and efforts.

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“Ensuring the important work of Boyle Street Community Services can continue in one centralized location that provides a reliable and safe space for the community will make our downtown a safer, more vibrant place to work and live,” Boissonnault said.

“This world-class facility is being built to better accommodate the unique needs of a vulnerable population and will provide dignified support to those who need it most in our city.”

Since leaving its previous location and spreading out services at multiple locations, Boyle Street has learned a lot, Reiniger said.

“It was disruptive at the beginning, in terms of getting all those different locations, getting set up in those locations, but now we’re operating full steam ahead,” he said.

“And the great silver lining in all that is that it allowed us to set up our operations to start piloting some of the ways we’re going to work in this new okimaw peyesew kamik facility. In this transition from the old building to the new one, we’re able to pilot and try things out and learn.”

Click to play video: 'Boyle Street Community Services without a building'
Boyle Street Community Services without a building

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