Dozens of people are looking forward to Wednesday this week.
That's because Rosethorn House opens and the new tenants can move in. The new 42-unit structure at 275 Victoria St. West is finally finished, and will provide permanent housing for people in need in Kamloops.
"Wednesday, we officially open this space and will be providing safe, warm homes with around-the-clock care and support to people experiencing homelessness in this community," CMHA BC executive director Jonny Morris says.
The local CMHA Kamloops is leading the operation. Acting operations leader Alfred Achoba led media on a tour of the building today (Jan. 27), and showed off the new suites, a commercial-style kitchen and more. The kitchen will provide three meals a day to residents.
Great news about new housing project for vulnerable people in #Kamloops! A 42-unit supportive housing building operated by @CMHAKamloopsBC has just been opened and will start welcoming tenants this week! #homelessness https://t.co/DzMEmvrJaP pic.twitter.com/ObOSESVWUN— CMHA BC (@CMHABC) January 27, 2020
"Many of our residents have Foodsafe," he says. "Many of our residents will have the opportunity to work in the kitchen."
There's also a 24/7 support office where programs will be offered, ranging from budgeting help to peer support. A medical room will also be staffed five days a week, and a harm reduction space is attached.
"The harm reduction room is a place where clients can safely use injectable drugs, but also get support around harm reduction, which is what can be done around recovery," Achoba says. "Many of our folks have gone through that process."
A pair of multipurpose rooms will be used in a wide variety of ways, including providing temporary shelter during extreme cold events, to those still living on the street, according to Achoba.
Most of the new tenants at Rosethorn House are moving from the Branch on the North Shore, where they shared living space.
Daniel Hall, who's lived on the streets for six years, teared up when describing his journey.
"It's a big step up from being recently homeless and then moving to a loft with 18 bunk beds and then all of the sudden just getting your own home with your own bed, your own kitchen. It's a good feeling," the former Branch resident says.
Shelter, even after getting into the Branch, wasn't certain, and he credits Achoba and the team at CMHA Kamloops for pulling through. Now, Hall wants to take advantage of the opportunity he's been afforded, including seeking treatment for addiction.
"Myself, I chose to go forward because I don't want to live on the street for the rest of my life, I want to move forward in my life and progress things," he says. "Myself, I just do my own thing and keep climbing up the stairs — hopefully, I'll be where I want to be and go from there."
Brett Booth is also looking forward to his new suite, which comes furnished with a dining table and chairs, bed, private cooking area, dresser and more.
"I'm now able to focus on moving forward with my life and actually accomplishing some goals, instead of dealing with the everyday struggles that most of us face on the streets or even at the Branch where we're not able to focus on those things," he says.
He says finding work will be paramount and one day he'd like to pursue higher education.
"I'd like to go to school and get my masters's degree in psychology, but we'll see. Either that or just join the workforce," he says.
Having a private space will make that a more achievable goal.
"I don't have to worry about my belongings or noise levels," he says. "Just the basic things we take for granted."
The building cost $10.8 million, with funding coming through the provincial government via BC Housing. BC Housing board member Katherine McParland says operating costs are $980,000 per year.
The project was delayed somewhat due to geotechnical issues related to the slope behind the building and construction along Victoria Street West, Morris notes, thanking Horizon North and Extreme Excavating for their efforts.
Rosethorn House is a name the incoming residents decided themselves, says BC Housing supportive housing advisor Matt Camirand. He read a statement from the group, written collectively.
"Every rose has its thorn is a famous saying, generally used to teach an important fact about human nature — that nobody is perfect," he read. "Even the rose, beautiful and enticing, is not without its flaws."
"The prickly thorns of the rose can poke and pierce the flesh; even something as beautiful of the rose has its flaws."