The doors of Surrey’s newest supportive housing building are now open, and not a moment too soon.
The five-storey structure will house those experiencing, or at-risk of, homelessness, and all units were spoken for before tenants began moving in this week.
“It’s no secret in Surrey that we’re definitely in dire need of this type of housing,” said Shayne Williams, CEO of Lookout.
“The current mayor and council has done a good job of bringing in three (supportive housing) buildings online just this year, but we have a long way to go,” Williams added. “I’d say we’re several hundred (units) away from what we truly need in Surrey.”
Named for William Baird Blackstone, the building is part of a joint initiative of the B.C. government and City of Surrey to construct 250 permanent supportive modular homes to replace temporary sites in the city. Two other supportive housing projects, The Nest and Peterson Place, have opened, adding 139 such units in Surrey.
A new supportive housing building – the Baird Blackstone, is open, providing more than 60 safe and secure homes for people in the community experiencing, or at-risk of, homelessness. Residents will start moving in on Sept. 7, 2021.
— City of Surrey (@CityofSurrey) August 25, 2021
For the Blackstone project, the province chipped in $16 million through its Homelessness Action Plan, along with an annual operating subsidy of $1.1 million, and the city provided the land, valued at around $1.3 million.
Williams said Blackstone, who died last January after a battle with cancer, was a key figure with Lookout for many years, as a board member and also on the planning committee for the building that now carries his name.
“He was a tireless social-justice advocate and for housing, a real champion for vulnerable people in Surrey,” Williams said.
“(Blackstone) contributed a lot of his own time and efforts to get this project done and make sure we got a good product,” he added. “We’re very proud of this building, and Baird had a lot do to with that. We’re just so grateful to the family as well, to allow us to add his name to the building like this. His death was such a loss to us.”
Lookout also manages a year-round shelter next door to the Blackstone building, which backs onto Hjorth Road Park and is built next to a Real Canadian Superstore.
Blackstone’s studio units include private washroom and kitchenette, and the building has a commercial kitchen, dining and lounge areas, storage, laundry and medical rooms.
“This housing will offer an opportunity for tenants to transition to building stability and improve their quality of life,” Williams said in a news release. “We thank our partners from BC Housing and the City of Surrey for their leadership in making this much-needed supportive housing possible.”
The project in Guildford “will give vulnerable people the supports they need to get back on their feet, ensuring our community is safer and healthier,” stated Garry Begg, MLA for Surrey-Guildford. “Our government will continue to build homes like these in Surrey and across the province so that people experiencing homelessness can have a roof over their head and a place to call home.”
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum says this past year “has illustrated that during uncertain times the need to have a safe place to call home has never been greater,” he said in a news release. “Unfortunately, there are still many people who do not have a roof over their head. By providing housing and vital supportive services for Surrey’s most vulnerable, (the Blackstone opening) is another step in the right direction. Through our continued partnership with the Province of B.C., we are rapidly adding much-needed supportive housing and removing the largest barrier that prevents vulnerable citizens from getting back on their feet.”