New supportive housing site welcomes vulnerable Edmontonians

Click to play video: 'New affordable housing units in south Edmonton changing lives for residents'
New affordable housing units in south Edmonton changing lives for residents
New support housing units are open in south Edmonton, at the former Days Inn hotel near Whyte Avenue. People who were experience homelessness are now living there, and in the few months the units have been open, they have made a huge difference. Sarah Komadina has more – Dec 20, 2022

A new supportive housing site is welcoming Edmonton’s most vulnerable population in from the cold.

The Mustard Seed’s Prairie Manor, located near Whyte Avenue, first opened its doors in the summer and is now at 70 per cent capacity.

The site is part of the federal government’s national housing program, Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI). It is one of eight projects funded by the City of Edmonton and federal government to provide housing for vulnerable people.

RHI is a $2.5-billion program under the National Housing Strategy, created to address the urgent and immediate need for affordable housing through rapid construction of over 10,000 units country-wide.

“Prairie Manor is not just welcoming Edmontonians who might struggle to keep finding stable housing this winter, it’s giving them a permanent place to call home,” said Mayor Amarjeet Sohi.

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“This project builds on The Mustard Seed’s long history of working to address houselessness, reduce poverty and help Edmontonians meet their basic needs.”

At the news conference Tuesday, Sohi added, “housing is critical infrastructure and we need to start treating housing like we treat other infrastructure.”

Click to play video: 'City council approves $7.5M for emergency winter shelter space in west Edmonton'
City council approves $7.5M for emergency winter shelter space in west Edmonton

Affordable and accessible housing has been a hot topic for Edmonton’s city council this past year, with many councilors reaching a breaking point about the lack of support from the provincial government to create winter shelter spaces and all-around appropriate housing for the city’s homeless.

The RHI program allowed the city to renovate the former Strathcona Junction into an 85-self-contained-unit space that provides urgent housing. The overall investment was $9.2 million from RHI and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and $1.7 million from the city.

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Prairie Manor is an inclusive space with “floors dedicated to individuals with low mobility, females and sober living,” reads a news release Tuesday.

The site has 49 units reserved for Indigenous peoples, who currently make up 57 per cent of the population experiencing homelessness.

To secure a spot, residents sign a lease and pay rent that is 30 per cent of their income. Residents are welcome to furnish and decorate their units to their own personal taste. Supports are also available on an as-need basis through referrals and visits, with staff on-site 24 hours.

Matthew Dekker, a Prairie Manor resident holds up his artwork, Dec. 20, 2022. Global News

“The Mustard Seed is so grateful for the opportunity to create a space where those who have experienced homelessness can find comfort and peace,” said Katie Kitschke, director of housing, The Mustard Seed Edmonton.

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“We know that there is still so much work to be done, but we are proud to be a part of it.”

Matthew Dekker moved in two months ago and said he loves it.

“It’s a beautiful place. I love it here. The people are so welcoming and friendly and helpful.”

Dekker is an artist and he said one morning, he found a bag full of paint and a bunch of canvases waiting on a shelf for him.

“I’ve been doing a lot of painting,” he laughed.

He said he’s had a “rough go” being homeless and now he has his independence back – being able to make his own breakfast and go about his day as he pleases.

“I’m just so thankful to be here,” he said. “For Edmonton to have a facility like this, we are so blessed.”

— With files from Sarah Komadina, Global News

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