The Comox Valley’s first transitional housing for youth is almost set to house its first resident.
Named the Station, the 10-bedroom building will provide a home for youth who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and need supports. Its first resident is expected to move in shortly after the finishing touches are completed.
“[We] saw the Station as a place you started off on a journey or changed direction on a journey,” said Wendy Richardson, executive director of the John Howard Society of North Island (JHSNI). “So because of the proximity to the former railway station, [the name] seems like a good fit.”
The Station will house youths from 16 to 19 who are preparing to live on their own. While teaching them life skills, the Station also provides individualized programming depending on each person’s needs.
“We will work with youth who are in need of housing, who are sort of transitioning into adulthood and who typically have been in care but are moving into the adult world and need supports to help them learn how to be good tenants and how to manage to live independently,” said Richardson.
The former Abbeyfield House building on Eighth Street and Pidcock Avenue was gifted to JHSNI in October 2017 as the former retirement home was not compliant with the Residential Tenancy Act.
While renovations were supposed to be completed in the spring of 2018, work on the building didn’t actually start until mid-summer as JHSNI awaited the necessary funds.
“We were very careful to use funding that’s come from various generous sources very transparently and appropriately. We wanted to be sure everything was in place before we went ahead,” said Richardson.
JHSNI received funds for the project through the Comox Valley Community Foundation, the Ministry of Children and Family Development and the Comox Valley Regional District through the Homelessness Support Services tax.
Richardson says though it was a beautiful building already, there was a lot of work involved to make it a suitable and comfortable place for youth to live.
“It was set up for seniors with things like railings that they need to hold onto to walk and so on,” said Richardson. “What we’ve tried to do is brighten it up a bit, remove the things that made it feel like a seniors’ home and add things that are easier to maintain.”
This includes new flooring, all new furniture, an electronic locking system on the door so residents don’t have to worry about carrying keys, and a new security system.
JHSNI currently also manages Barnett House in Campbell River, a five-bedroom apartment style transitional housing complex that offers a place to stay for at-risk youth.
Richardson says the average length of stay at Barnett House is eight months, with some living in the facility for up to three years and some only a couple months.
While in Campbell River each unit is completely independent, the Station has a number of communal spaces which Richardson says can help to prevent loneliness and isolation.
The Station’s units do not have kitchens, but the building features a communal dining room where residents can make their own breakfasts and lunches, and a large kitchen where they will hold a cooking program.
“A daily meal will be provided and the young people living there will participate in the cooking and planning of meals,” said Richardson. “So each day, there should be a shared main meal cooked in that kitchen.”
JHSNI works with the Ministry of Children and Families to screen youth before moving them into the Station.
The Station is located next door to the site where 46 supportive housing units will be built this spring. This property will also be managed by JHSNI.