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Burnaby homeless shelter opens 6 months after initial target

BC Housing announced the opening of the shelter in a Burnaby Lake parking lot, as well as construction on a forthcoming Norland Ave. social housing project
Construction is set to begin soon on a modular social housing project next to the Norland Place social housing building.
A long-awaited emergency homeless shelter has opened in Burnaby a month after it was initially expected to have closed, the provincial government has announced.

The emergency response centre (ERC) is a 45-bed shelter in which each bed has its own small room, and it was built in the Burnaby Lake Sports Complex parking lot at 3860 Sperling Ave. The shelter offers access to services like meals, washroom and shower facilities, health-care services and other supports.

Operated by Burnaby-based Progressive Housing Society, the ERC started taking guests by referrals through Fraser Health and BC Housing on Monday, Feb. 1.

But according to a June 2020 city council report, the ERC was expected as early as late July – roughly half a year ago. In fact, staff had indicated at the time the city only expected to be able to house the shelter until December, when construction on the Burnaby Lake Sports Complex redevelopment was set to ramp up.

By late September, the shelter’s opening was expected for October, with city staff noting the demand for shelter space had increased last year while existing shelters were forced to accept fewer patrons due to COVID-related social distancing rules.

Earlier that month, Mayor Mike Hurley said the shelter’s opening “quite frankly” had not received the urgency it required.

The province also announced that construction is expected to begin soon on a four-storey, 43-unit supportive housing project at 3986 Norland Ave. The project is being built next to Norland Place, an existing 52-unit modular housing building that opened in October 2019.

This project will, like Norland Place, offer “wraparound supports,” including health and wellness, meal programs, and life and employment skills training.

"Everyone in the community benefits when people have access to the housing and supports they need," said David Eby, attorney general and minister responsible for housing, in a news release. "Access to safe and secure housing gives people the stability and dignity they deserve to begin rebuilding their lives."

Jaye Treit, executive director of PHS, which is also set to operate the housing at Norland Avenue, said the two projects come “at a time when shelter and housing are so urgently needed.”

Construction on the Norland Avenue project is expected to be completed in spring this year.

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