Another temporary modular housing project for the homeless is attracting neighbourhood opposition and community activism.
But this time, it’s in Richmond, where the project is proposed.
BC Housing and the City of Richmond are proposing to build a three-storey modular structure at 7300 Elmbridge Way – the southwest corner of the intersection of Elmbridge Way and Alderbridge Way; a City-owned site, right next to an ICBC Claim Centre, that is currently used as an off-leash dog park.
It will have 40 units – each outfitted with a kitchen and bathroom – with around-the-clock on-site support services by RainCity Housing to address the immediate needs of those struggling to find a place to live. This includes breakfast and a hot meal on a daily basis, life-skills training, and access to primary health and mental health services. Residents will also share communal amenity spaces.
Over the longer run, such housing developments will transition the homeless individuals from Richmond towards housing independence and improved quality of life.
The project is being proposed as homelessness has sharply risen in Richmond in recent years. According to the 2017 homeless count, there are 70 homeless people in the city, which represents an 84% increase since 2014.
Moreover, local non-profit service providers say over 120 individuals currently need outreach support, and about 130 individuals seeking shelter at local facilities are turned away monthly. This includes about 60 women per month who are fleeing violence.
However, not everyone is supportive of the project and its location.
“This is so wrong of a place to put it here,” Yating Wu, a local resident, told Daily Hive. “We don’t want needles and crime in our neighbourhood and it will give Richmond a bad reputation as there are hotels next to this homeless housing. Put it in the Downtown Eastside, not in Richmond.”
There were similar concerns last year for the Marpole modular housing project in Vancouver, which culminated with the City of Vancouver receiving a court injunction to remove protesters from the site.
Wu is part of a WeChat group with several hundred members who plan to rally against the project in the weeks to come, and many of these members have already signed a growing petition calling on City Council to reject the proposal.
The project has received significant media attention since Wednesday’s open house at Richmond Public Library, where a man allegedly kicked a librarian during the event. Police have since identified the man, but they say the assault was “unrelated” to the open house.
If the project receives City Council’s approval this spring, construction could start by summer or fall for a move-in by late-2018 or early-2019, and the structure will remain in place for a period of up to five years.
The provincial government has set aside $291 million to construct 2,000 modular housing units for the homeless in municipalities across BC.
About $60 million is going to Vancouver where 600 units will be built. To date, five modular housing sites in Vancouver have been announced, and 260 units are currently in development.
In Surrey, the first three sites for modular housing structures have been identified. A total of 160 units at these sites will be ready for occupation by early this spring.
Last year, Richmond partnered with the Salvation Army and the provincial government to proceed with a plan to open a 36-bed homeless shelter at 12040 Horseshoe Way, which is located in an industrial area away from residences.