Valerie Chiba, president of the Vernon Native Housing Society, said she is pleased with the opportunity to house Elders, persons with accessibility challenges and aboriginal families. (Brieanna Charlebois - Morning Star)

Vernon affordable housing development addresses “Hidden Homeless” problem

Thunderbird Manor will be a four-storey, 38-unit development on 27th Avenue past Landing Plaza.

While many city officials are figuring out how to deal with a growing number of people living on the streets, the Vernon Native Housing Society is focused on a different kind of homeless problem. It’s what Valerie Chiba, President of VNHS, calls “hidden homelessness.”

On Feb. 14, the 38-family VNHS housing initiative broke ground. This $10 million project, dubbed Thunderbird Manor, focuses on providing Indigenous Vernonites with housing but also aims help solve some of the local housing issues for low-income families.

VNHS executive director Karen Gerein explained the “hidden homeless” are individuals within the community who are living with family, friends or couch surfing because they can’t afford rent.

“They don’t have their own place because of financial strain, which causes mental strain. The purpose of this project is to take some of those people who are unseen homeless and give them a home they can actually afford,” said Gerein.

Related: Government funds affordable housing in Vernon

Related: Nearly 8,000 homeless in B.C., first province-wide count reveals

She said that when the project was planned, they were hoping to focus on youth aging out of care. While she acknowledged that Turning Points has done a “wonderful job” providing services to individuals living on Vernon’s streets, she said VNHS isn’t structured to provide those services.

“BC Housing is also doing a good job and their main goal right now is getting people off the street but they have also always had a goal of helping people move out of affordable housing and into home ownership,” she said. “How [our organization] addresses homelessness is with affordable housing.”

Established in 1989, VNHS is a not-for-profit organization that provides low-cost rental housing to low-income families and individuals, including First Nations people residing in Vernon.

“Because of the nature of our work, we do have a focus on supplying resources to the Aboriginal community,” said Chiba.

She said that while the society understands the housing crisis affects all British Columbians, because project is “aboriginal funding”, they are aiming for at least 60 per cent of the residents to be of Indigenous decent or have Indigenous ties.

In 2018, the B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association estimated that one-third of B.C. residents are renters, with almost half spending more than 30 per cent of their income on rent. Almost one in five are spending more than 50 per cent of their income on rent. The government has recently responded to what many are calling a “housing crisis” by launching a new housing strategy with a 10-year, $40 billion plan.

With a $2.27 million federal government commitment to help build Thunderbird Manor, Chiba said it’s expected to open in spring 2020. It will provide homes to at least 38 families and individuals, Indigenous elders, people with accessibility challenges and families living off-reserve. The provincial government also provided $7.9 million and the City of Vernon which waived development fees.

“The new national housing strategy is fantastic and they’re pumping all of this money into housing. It’s just too bad that they didn’t do it sooner because not renewing agreements with aging housing, not releasing any funds for new builds or working with the provinces, has resulted in the situation we’re in today,” said Gerein. “So even though we continue to get more housing, we still see these homeless numbers climb and that’s because of CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation) pulling out funding in the 1990s, but they are here now and are scrambling to make up for the last 25 years.”

She said she believes it’s becoming harder to attract people to Vernon because housing costs are high and the vacancy levels are low. She hopes this project will give people a chance to succeed, and also noted a local collaboration between B.C. Housing, Turning Points, the Vernon Native Housing Society and Social Planning wherein they are working together to “look at each individual person and trying to house them appropriately.”

“B.C. is one of the few provinces that stepped up to the plate and actually continued to provide affordable housing,” she said. “So with our complex and with the Turning Points Complexes, we’re hoping to see, over the next few years, a dramatic drop of people in the streets.”

Watch: Our Facebook Live from the groundbreaking ceremony Feb. 14:

Related: Letter: Affordable housing critical in Vernon

Related: Vernon affordable housing development to break ground

To report a typo, email:
newstips@vernonmorningstar.com
.



Follow me on Twitter @BrieChar
Email me brieanna.charlebois@vernonmorningstar.com
Like us on Facebook.

Just Posted

Vernon pitcher tosses second no-hitter of season

Jarod Leroux has two no-nos in his last three starts for the BCPBL’s Okanagan Athletics

Okanagan-Shuswap Weather: Heat, sun and a chance of thunderstorms for Father’s Day

Morning pancake breakfasts and fishing derbies across the region will see sun, showers may follow.

The annual event takes place Sunday, June 23 at Creekside Park in Coldstream

Pre-registrations, sponsorships and donations for the CMHA annual Ride Don’t Hide event… Continue reading

Vernon seeks additional fetal alcohol syndrome support B.C.-wide

“We are making a difference but we could make even more of a difference”

Highlander dancer off to Canadians

Canadians take place July 3-7

VIDEO: Horseback riding helps North Okanagan residents with special needs

North Okanagan Therapeutic Riding Association needs more volunteers to continue offering sessions

B.C. VIEWS: When farmland protection doesn’t protect farmers

Secondary residences aren’t mansions, families tell Lana Popham

Bombers down B.C. Lions 33-23 in season opener

Former Lion Andrew Harris leads Winnipeg with 148 rushing yards

Summerland ready for dry summer conditions

Province has declared Level Two drought, but Summerland has not increased watering restrictions

Summerland pioneers had connection to Middlesex, England

Harry Dunsdon and Richard Turner became cattlemen

Northern B.C. family remembers murdered Indigenous woman with memorial walk

Still no closure for Ramona Wilson’s family 25 years later

B.C. university to offer mentorship program for former youth in care

Students using the provincial tuition waiver program will soon be able to form a community at KPU

Gambler 500 hits Okanagan back roads

Hundreds of off road enthusiasts are rallying in the South Okanagan this… Continue reading

Cyclists competing in one of the toughest bike races on the planet pass through Fernie

Divide riders looking strong as they finish first leg of 4160 km race

Most Read