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Burnaby residents give homeless housing project unanimous support at public hearing

Proposed 52-unit supportive housing project planned for Norland Avenue
Supportive studio
A supportive housing facility on Norland Avenue would include 52 studio suites.

A proposed housing project that promises to provide vulnerable people with the supports they need received some critical support of its own at a recent public hearing.

All seven people who addressed Burnaby city council at a Tuesday public hearing spoke in favour of a rezoning application that would allow a 52-unit housing complex on Norland Avenue.

The former medical health officer for the region said supports for people suffering from mental illnesses improved significantly during her time in Burnaby from 1995 to her retirement in 2014.

“Quite a lot has been accomplished,” Dr. Nadine Loewen said. “But the big stumbling stone still has been housing.”

The proposed project is part of the province’s Rapid Response to Homelessness program. The NDP government has pledged $7.6 million to build the homes at 3986 Norland Ave. Burnaby-based Progressive Housing Society will manage the site slated to open next spring.

The small studio apartments will include bathrooms, kitchens and beds. Residents will have access to a full suite of services, including laundry, life-skills training, health care and meal programs.

For many people struggling with mental health challenges, a safe and secure place to rest their head will make a world of difference, Loewen said.

“Housing is such an important element for a person. It includes their health and quality of life, it offers them stability,” she said. “You only have to think how hard it would be at the best of times to run your life if you were living under a tree or under a bridge.”

Garth Evans, vice-president of Progressive Housing, also spoke in favour of the project, as did a pastor involved with Burnaby’s homelessness task force.

Cory Redekop, Burnaby Board of Trade’s manager of policy and stakeholder relations, also addressed council. He said the board and its members support the project for several reasons, including its location near the highway away from any busy commercial areas. 

Board members also support the project due to its wraparound supports for residents. 

“The mantra is housing first, but it can’t be housing only,” Redekop said.

The rezoning application will be up for final approval at a future council meeting.