For Atira Women’s Resource Society, being able to open another 44 units of supportive modular housing at Little’s Place in Whalley is “emotional,” says the society’s CEO.
Janice Abbott, during an event at the site with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland on Wednesday (April 13), said Little’s Place has “a lot of significance in terms of creating a safe place for women in a site that was at one point very unsafe.”
The new units are set to open in May, as part of the federal government’s Rapid Housing Initiative.
She said when Atira purchased the site in 2017 – with support from the provincial government – it was the Motel Hollywood, “operating as a place where young women were being bought and sold for sex.”
“Many young women who were extremely vulnerable, mostly living in the north part of Surrey,” explained Abbott.
Little’s Place was named after Santanna Scott-Huntinghawk after she died after overdosing in a tent in November of 2016. Scott-Huntinghawk’s nickname was “Little” because of her short and petite stature.
“She had just aged out of the foster-care system and so when we opened the site and we elected to name it, with her family’s blessing, in memory of Santanna and in memory of young women who have experienced violence including the violence of not having a home at the hands of the foster care system.”
Little’s Place originally consisted of 22 units in the former motel.
“Having Little’s was a blessing (of) 20 units where women could stay sort of indefinitely and another 40 units is emotional and it’s awesome.”
Abbott said the second site was approved by the City of Surrey in late December 2020, adding you “must appreciate how fast this has happened.”
She noted that with the Rapid Housing Initiative funding, Atira will also be building and opening another 10-bed facility on the site.
Randeep Sarai, MP for Surrey Centre, said Surrey has been the recipient of significant funding under the initiative.
“This site is one of those recipients, with $16.4 million under the major cities stream to support the creation of 44 affordable housing units for the new Atira Women’s Resource Society facility,” said Sarai, adding it will help women “experiencing and at-risk of homelessness, including Indigenous women, trans and two-spirit women and women who are struggling with substance abuse, mental health and spiritual wellness.”
Meantime, Freeland said this “incredible site” will “soon be a safe space for so many women here in Surrey.”
“This project really is very inspiring. I’ve been so glad to see these rooms where some of the most vulnerable women in our country, in our community will have a safe space, will have their own little kitchen, will have a bathroom, will have a door they can close and lock.”
Freeland has been on a tour through the country after releasing the budget on April 7. She added the budget “represents the most ambitious plan Canada has ever put forward to solve this fundamental challenge.”
Over the next decade, Freeland said the government plans to double the number of new homes built in Canada.
“It’s concrete proof of what we can achieve when we work together. Housing is a basic human need and we need to ensure that everyone in Canada has a safe place to call home, but we have a serious problem in our country and a very serious problem here in b.C. We don’t have enough homes, we need more of them fast.”