For four months, the Tutt Street Place women’s supportive housing project hung in limbo because of a lawsuit by South Pandosy merchants. During that time Kelowna Mayor Sharon Shepherd worked tirelessly to clear the legal hurdles and get the project off the ground.
“I couldn’t believe how emotional I was feeling,” Shepherd said, as she prepared for today’s ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony. “I do a lot of groundbreakings but this is pretty special.”
She noted that earlier in the morning the weather looked quite dire. But by the time the ceremony rolled around, the skies had cleared and the sun was shinning. ”Somebody up there is watching over us and this project was meant to be,” she said.
Tutt Street Place is going up on the back half of a city-owned parking lot between Pandosy Avenue and Tutt Street. It will be operated by New Opportunities for Women (NOW) Canada.
The four-storey building will front onto Tutt Street and will include 24 one-bedroom units, 12 two-bedroom units and three three-bedroom units. The apartments will be on the top three levels while the ground floor will feature NOW Canada’s offices, program areas and common areas for tenants.
The accommodations will be available to women, with or without children, who have a proven financial need. Support services will include things like drug and alcohol counselling and help finding work and permanent housing.
Theresa Heath, who lives in another NOW Canada housing complex, spoke at the ceremony and credited the organization with helping her get on her feet and deal with her alcohol addiction.
“If it wasn’t for a NOW Canada apartment, I don’t know where I’d be,” she said. And because she has affordable rent she added, she doesn’t have to work two or three jobs just to put a roof over her head. “This has freed me to go to school, to pursue an education.”
The City of Kelowna supplied the land for Tutt Street Place, while the Real Estate Foundation of B.C. provided a $100,000 grant and NOW Canada came up with $671,140.
But the bulk of the funding, $9.1 million, is coming from the province, which has also committed to providing an annual operating subsidy of $292,500.
Tutt Street Place is the second of three Kelowna supportive housing projects promised by the province in a memorandum of understanding signed last March. In June, work began on the Willowbridge project on Boyce Crescent.
However, funding for the third project, a 49-unit longer term housing complex to be run by the John Howard Society in Rutland, has yet to materialize and it is uncertain when or whether it will.
“I’m not certain of the exact status [of the Rutland project] so what we’ve committed to do as local MLAs is continue to work towards completion of the project,” said cabinet minister and Kelowna-Mission MLA, Steve Thomson, who represented the government at the ceremony. “We know the community needs it, we know its part of the continuum of projects here…so we’d like to continue to work hard to make sure we can deliver that project here at some point.”