Nance’s Salute to Sandy Merriman House

Walking into Sandy Merriman House, the day we were to interview Nance, we were instantly greeted with the sweet melody of a guitar and an unknown singer. Once led down the stairs into a quiet room, there was Nance though, with a guitar on her lap and a note on her tongue — we had found the source of that sweet melody!

Nance is a well-known singer in the online world. Having recorded multiple songs to the virtual world over the past several years, and written hundreds of songs as well, she is a lover of all things music. Ironically, Nance has never sung here in Victoria. We hope that you will take a listen to her song and share it with everyone too.

Besides her phenomenal singing voice, Nance has a warmth and kindness that reaches out from her the moment you meet. She is currently staying at Cool Aid’s women’s shelter, Sandy Merriman House, and has made connections not only with the staff, but with the people living there too.

“The staff here are so friendly—they are amazing and that is why I wrote the song. The word Merriman, Merriman kept tumbling through my head so I started writing. The song came together in less than ten minutes and it became a kind of salute to the staff. It is the least I could do to thank them and all they have done for me during this difficult time in my life.”

Nance and her partner found themselves unexpectedly evicted when some unforeseen medical complications left them with some large bills. They had a short time to collect their things, pack up, and found themselves on the street. However, through a friend of a friend, they were put in touch with Kim at Our Place Society. Kim knew instantly that the best place for them to be at was Sandy Merriman House. Quickly putting things into action, Nance and her partner gained shelter, resources and a community in a very short period of time.

“We are so grateful… we have a community here.”


To hear more from our interview with Nance, check it out her story  along with our other client stories. Plus, don’t forget to check out our social media feeds and share her song!

Spunky Susan Has A Lot of Life Left to Live

Susan has been a client of Cool Aid for the past six years. She is a wonderful mix of spunk, generosity, happiness and fun all bundled up in her petite, five-foot frame. At 67, Susan has already done so much in her life — but as she told us, “I am going to live to 103 — I still have a lot of living left to do!”

Susan Next Steps 2017Susan spent most of her early life raising her two kids and working in various restaurants. Her passion is found in cooking and it turned into a career for her when she was younger. She had worked as a line cook, a chef, a server — you name it she did it! Still to this day, Susan loves to cook, and her dream is to be able to one day offer cooking lessons, free of charge, to those in assisted living facilities.

Her story takes a turn though, from raising kids and cooking, to having go through two brain aneurisms and a very serious brain surgery several years ago. Over time and other circumstances, this lead to Susan finding herself homeless.

As Susan told us: “If you had told me six years ago I would have been homeless, I would have said you were nuts! You know — it all happened so quickly.”

But Susan didn’t let this slow her down one bit. Being put in contact with Cool Aid staff, they worked hard to find her a home, a community she could be a part of, and to help her begin to re-establish her life.

“My friends Vic and Cheryl — they are my walking, talking Angels!” Susan was quick to tell us.

“Cool Aid has been wonderful — they have helped me so much with finding shelter and all of that. They are great!”

Susan holds a special place in the staff’s hearts. She is always teasing other residents, telling stories, and of course, cooking. Susan’s message to everyone is to keep living life to the fullest — to be grateful for each and every day you get out of bed in the morning, no matter what your circumstances. Her full interview and message to everyone can be viewed here:

To say the least — we could all learn a bit from Susan, and remember to be thankful for everything life has to offer us — no matter where we may find ourselves tomorrow.

DRAFT Mount Edwards Court FAQ

Mount Edwards FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions are below.

Victoria Cool Aid Society builds homes, lives and community. We create opportunities for people who are homeless or living in poverty. We make a difference through housing, health care, support and emergency shelters. Founded in 1968, Cool Aid helps 10,000 people in the Capital Region every year, at 16 locations in Langford, Victoria and Saanich – including 12 supportive housing apartment buildings. The Society’s major campaign is “Help End Homelessness”, to build an additional 360 apartments for people in the community who have no home — and Mount Edwards were the first new ones available for occupancy.

The Mount Edwards property at 1002 Vancouver Street is well designed for the purpose – and currently houses 38 individuals on the main floor. Other features include a dining area, lounge, offices for support staff and a large interior courtyard.

The FAQ below (Frequently Asked Questions) has been prepared to answer some of the most common questions we hear about Mount Edwards Court.

Contact information can be found below should you want to speak to someone from Cool Aid or are interested in a tour of existing Mount Edwards or other Cool Aid programs; an opportunity to meet our staff and tenants.


FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

Click on a question to read the answer.

Who Lives at Mount Edwards Court?

What About Mental Illness, Drugs and Addictions?

Aren’t Neighbourhood Impacts Unacceptable?

What About Neighbourhood Consultation and Rezoning?


Answers to Questions


Question:
Who will live in these apartments?

Answer: The profile of residents in Mount Edwards is very similar to the existing profile of residents served in all of Cool Aid’s other ten supportive housing buildings: 70% male and 30% female; about 40% between 19 and 39 years old, 47% between 40 and 55 years, and 13% over 55.

All people housed in Mount Edwards Court have been previously homeless.

The 38 small apartments are intended for a wide variety of needs and ages, including mental health conditions, addictions, head injuries and fetal alcohol syndrome for men and women who have been homeless and require housing and support services. Cool Aid’s job is to find appropriate, permanent housing for all residents.

Back to questions near top

Question: What are your screening criteria for Mount Edwards residents?

Answer: The screening process is a complex one that includes:

  • the use of a vulnerability assessment tool
  • interviewing the prospective tenants
  • talking with our staff, other service providers and helping professionals who know the candidates, and
  • weighing their suitability for the current mix of residents and the neighbourhood

The goal is to create a mix of residents that is balanced and manageable, while providing a high level of support for those who need it.

Back to questions near top

Question: Why don’t you do Criminal Record checks on prospective tenants? How can you ensure that sex offenders are screened out?

In British Columbia, landlords and property managers acting on their behalf must adhere to the privacy rules contained in the BC Personal Information Protection Act (“PIPA”). These guidelines are intended to assist landlords and property managers in discharging their duties under the Residential Tenancy Act (“RTA”) in a manner that respects the privacy of tenants and promotes transparency in the operation of landlord and tenant relationships.

A landlord cannot as a condition of renting or providing any service to a tenant, ask for consent to collect personal information beyond what is necessary to provide tenancy or that service. Requiring a criminal records check is not reasonably necessary.

Sex offenders are on strict orders that prohibit them from being in areas where children are in close proximity. They must report their address to their probation / parole officer who would preclude them from residing at Mount Edwards; or indeed any apartment building in close proximity to a school.

Back to questions near top


Question: How are you finding permanent homes for the people now living in Mount Edwards Court, when there are so few vacant apartments in Victoria and considering how expensive they are?

Answer: This question underscores the fact that there are currently not enough affordable rentals in the Capital Region. In the long term, the solution is continued construction of permanent affordable and supportive housing by all levels of government.

In the short term, Cool Aid is committed to finding permanent homes for the residents living in Mount Edwards Court. We do this by moving some of the residents who need a higher level of support into our other eleven apartment buildings, some into apartments operated by other non-profit organizations, and some into regular “market” apartments by subsidizing their rental costs and providing on-site support as needed. As of February 2017, twenty residents had been moved out of Mount Edwards into permanent housing.

Cool Aid’s long-term goal is, with community support, to build 360 more supportive housing apartments to help address this critical community need. Mount Edwards apartments were the first.

Back to questions near top

Question: Are guests allowed at Mount Edwards Court?

Answer: Cool Aid does not allow guests into the building to ensure that residents feel safe in their homes.

Back to questions near top

Question: I know a lot of street people have pets. Do you allow pets at Mount Edwards Court or any of your other eleven apartment buildings?

Answer: Pets are very important to people who have been homeless which is why most Cool Aid properties, including Mount Edwards, welcome our clients’ pets.

In fact, one of Cool Aid’s supporters is the Sooke Animal Food and Rescue Society (SAFARS), whose donors provide a significant amount of food for pets who are living with Cool Aid clients.

As well, Cool Aid has set up a “Pets In Need Endowment” at the Victoria Foundation to help our clients with some of their pet expenses, such as operations, thanks to a generous bequest in his will from the late Carl Young.

Back to questions near top

Question: Are the people living at Mount Edwards Court employed?

Answer: It might surprise neighbours to learn that a significant number of people who live in Cool Aid housing, including Mount Edwards, have regular jobs, as well as casual work. (This is also true of people staying in emergency shelters, like Rock Bay Landing and Sandy Merriman House.)

As well, Cool Aid has a longstanding policy of providing employment training opportunities for residents who want to gain some skills and earn a bit of money. Their janitorial contributions help build community and pride within the apartment buildings as well as providing new skills.

Other Cool Aid programs also provide employment training and placement opportunities for our residents and other clients:

  • Cool Aid’s Community Casual Labour Pool provides a free placement service for employers and casual workers who are available, trained and ready to work, including home owners who need help gardening, moving or with other needs.
  • The Downtown Community Centre, operated by Cool Aid at 755 Pandora Avenue near City Hall, provides employment training opportunities, lifeskills courses and healthy recreation opportunities for our residents and others. The free Community Kitchen program, for example, provides training in nutrition, food purchasing, preparation and storage, and leads to a Food Safe certification for participants.

The Beacon Services-Cool Aid Thrift Shop at 715 Pandora Avenue provides Cool Aid clients with employment training opportunities in retail operations as well as an inexpensive place to purchase clothing, household goods and other needed essentials.

Back to questions near top

Question: What are the expected outcomes for your residents?

Answer: Cool Aid’s agreement with the Province is quite clear about the expected outcomes for our residents. We are required to find permanent housing and any necessary supports that are needed for our Mount Edwards residents and help them move out. During that process, Cool Aid supports them in a variety of ways to improve their wellbeing, including help in locating employment, addiction treatment and improved health care.

As of February 2017, twenty of our Mount Edwards residents have been successfully moved into permanent housing elsewhere.

Back to questions near top

Question: Does Cool Aid have any measurable results or evidence to show that your programs and services are successful?

Yes, Cool Aid utilizes a Balanced Scorecard methodology to measure our progress towards meeting our strategic objectives and reports out annually to the community. Cool Aid has also been featured in local and national research as an example of best practices in supportive housing.

Back to questions near top


Question:
Is it true that low barrier housing has been found to be detrimental to drug addiction recovery?

Answer: Perhaps counter-intuitively, the opposite has in fact been found. Insisting that people become “clean” before providing them with safe and secure housing simply keeps people homeless for longer – leading to more problems in neighbourhoods and more cost to taxpayers.

What works better is harm reduction and housing first, where people are accepted no matter what their condition, helped to stabilize in housing, and then encouraged to work on whatever challenges have caused them to become homeless.

Back to questions near top


Question:
Are there policies requiring residents to take prescribed medication for mental health conditions, and if so is this enforced through supervision?

Answer: One of the important roles that our round-the-clock Housing Support Workers provide is medication monitoring. As well, they interact with tenants every day to ensure that they are doing well and have all the support they need. When outside services are required, such as an ambulance, they are called in.

Back to questions near top


Question:
Will there be a safe injection site at Mount Edward?

Answer: No. There will be no drop-in services at the Mount Edward Court. Services are for residents only.

Back to questions near top


Question:
It sounds dangerous to house people with mental illness and addictions right beside Cathedral School. What assurances can you give that our children will not be harmed?

Answer: Sometimes when Cool Aid proposes a new apartment building neighbours are fearful. They often think that supportive housing looks like an emergency shelter or drop-in service where there can be spillover effects onto the sidewalk. Once we open and neighbours discover that the building is well managed and the residents well supported, there are very few problems or complaints. Check out the locations of our 15 facilities on this map.

Mount Edwards Court has been operating in the neighbourhood for over a year, since February 2016, and there have been zero reported incidents between our residents and school children or other neighbours.

Cool Aid’s own properties on the 700-block of Pandora Avenue provide an excellent example of how supportive housing can work well with neighbours, businesses and children nearby. 112 Cool Aid residents are housed on the block (including eight residents 19 years or younger) – from the same populations that Cool Aid is also housing at Mount Edwards Court.

The Downtown Community Centre is located immediately below/adjacent to 85 apartments for both adults and youth under 19 years.

Every weekday during the school year, groups of daycare providers rent the Community Centre’s gymnasium space for their preschool children to enjoy. As you can see from this letter from a daycare provider, this has been working well for over 20 years for both the preschoolers and Cool Aid residents who benefit from their positive energy and encourage each other to be respectful and positive. To quote the daycare provider from her letter:

“Never in this time [20 years] have I or my children ever felt intimidated by the residents/clients of the facilities. In fact, it is quite the opposite. The residents/clients take great delight in watching the children and sometimes interacting with them – always with care and politeness and only after we have spoken first. I encourage the children to talk to everyone and if too shy to at least smile. The older children now recognize some of the longer time residents/clients and run up to say hi or show a special treasure they have. I really think this benefits the children and the residents/clients.”

Leagh Lawrence, Pedal Pusher Daycare

Additionally, for many years, the site was a host of the Out of the Rain youth shelter, for youth 19 years or younger who are homeless.

Cool Aid would be pleased to tour you through one of our sites, including Mount Edwards Court, so you can see for yourself how well a staffed supportive housing building fits into a neighbourhood even with child and youth services on site.

For tour bookings or information, please call Alan Rycroft at 250-414-4781 or email arycroft@CoolAid.org.

Back to questions near top


Question: Isn’t it true that Mount Edwards is a social experiment, providing supportive housing for such a large group beside an elementary school?

Answer: Mount Edwards Court is not a “social experiment”. There are numerous similiar projects located adjacent to schools in the Lower Mainland including Mole Hill & Lord Roberts Annex and Biltmore & Nightingale, which you can read about by clicking on the links.

Back to questions near top


Question:
How many staff are supporting the residents and neighbourhood at Mount Edwards Court?

Answer: Staffing levels are very high for just 38 residents and the neighbourhood.

Three professional resident support workers is the minimum staffing level at the site – that’s one staff person for each 13 residents — even during the middle of the night!

There is also a full-time Client Support Worker dedicated to assisting residents with their goal planning, such as finding work, a permanent home and healthcare. Additionally there are visiting professionals such as nurses during weekdays. Finally, there is janitorial/maintenance staff and meals are being prepared off-site at our Swift House kitchen.Mount Edwards has much higher staffing levels than Pandora Avenue, where we have successfully housed 112 residents for years with youth and child-serving programs on site every single day, including weekends.

We invite you to speak with our staff at Mount Edwards Court, or any other location, anytime. You can call Mount Edwards any hour of the day at 778-265-3456.

Back to questions near top

Questions: What are your expectations of the residents?

Answers: At Mount Edwards Court, there is a dedicated staff person who works with the residents on developing and implementing their own personal plans for community integration. This could include, for example, goals and strategies to find permanent housing, employment, addiction treatment and improved health care.

Different people have different levels of success in improving their situation and resolving challenges.

At minimum, Cool Aid requires that all residents behave in appropriate ways both in the building and the neighbourhood. Any resident that is unable to be a good neighbour will be asked and assisted to help change any antisocial behaviours. If they are unsuccessful, the person may be moved to another building or evicted if necessary.

Back to questions near top


Question: Is there a process for neighbourhood input and consultation?

Answer: See below (question about zoning).

Back to questions near top


Question:
Anyone who makes a modification to their home has to go through rezoning before proceeding. Why is the Province being allowed to do whatever they want in this building without a required rezoning?

Answer: By law, the Province has the right to avoid municipal zoning regulations.

However, the Province, the City of Victoria and Cool Aid have all publicly committed to a public rezoning process for Mount Edwards Court. In the meantime, members of the public are welcome to contact Cool Aid anytime.

Back to questions near top

Question: The BC Government has announced they intend to open up more apartments at Mount Edwards Count. Is that a good idea?

Answer: First off, the current plan has not changed — and that is to house and support up to 38 people who were formerly homeless and find them permanent housing.

Any other proposed uses of the building are still subject to a public rezoning process that the Province, Cool Aid and the City of Victoria have all committed to undertake.

After the rezoning process is completed, the neighbourhood will know with certainty what the long-term use of Mount Edwards Court will be.Back to questions near top


Additional Mount Edwards Information:

Mount Edwards main page

Housing First Research summary

Call Mount Edwards staff:  778-265-3456

Tours or more info about Cool Aid: Alan Rycroft, arycroft@CoolAid.org, 250-414-4781

 

Additional Housing Campaign Information

Help End Homeless campaign to house 360 people

Relevant definitions


ORIGINAL FAQ

Mount Edwards FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions are below.

Victoria Cool Aid Society builds homes, lives and community. We create opportunities for people who are homeless or living in poverty. We make a difference through housing, health care, support and emergency shelters. Founded in 1968, Cool Aid helps over 9,000 people in the Capital Region every year, at 15 locations in Langford, Victoria and Saanich – including 11 supportive housing apartment buildings. The Society’s major campaign is “Help End Homelessness”, to build an additional 360 apartments for people in the community who have no home.

Our newest apartment building, the Mount Edwards property at 1002 Vancouver Street, is well designed for the purpose – and currently houses 38 individuals on the main floor. Other features include a dining area, lounge, offices for support staff and a large interior courtyard.

The FAQ below (Frequently Asked Questions) has been prepared to answer some of the most common questions we hear about Mount Edwards Court.

Contact information can be found below should you want to speak to someone from Cool Aid or are interested in a tour of existing Cool Aid housing and an opportunity to meet our staff and tenants.


FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

Click on a question to read the answer. This FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) is also available as a handout designed for printing and sharing.

Who Will Live There?

What About Mental Illness, Drugs and Addictions?

Aren’t Neighbourhood Impacts Unacceptable?

What About Neighbourhood Consultation and Rezoning?


Answers to Questions


Question:
Who will live in these apartments?

Answer: The profile of residents in Mount Edwards is very similar to the existing profile of residents served in all of Cool Aid’s other ten supportive housing buildings: 70% male and 30% female; about 40% between 19 and 39 years old, 47% between 40 and 55 years, and 13% over 55.

All people housed in Mount Edwards Court have been previously homeless and have stayed at the InTent City at the nearby courthouse.

The 38 small apartments are intended for a wide variety of needs and ages, including mental health conditions, addictions, head injuries and fetal alcohol syndrome for men and women who have been homeless and require housing and support services. Cool Aid’s job is to find appropriate, permanent housing by March 2017 for all residents.

Back to questions near top

Question: What are your screening criteria for Mount Edwards residents?

Answer: The screening process is a complex one that includes:

  • the use of a vulnerability assessment tool
  • interviewing the prospective tenants
  • talking with our staff, other service providers and helping professionals who know the candidates, and
  • weighing their suitability for the current mix of residents in the building

The goal is to create a mix of residents that is balanced and manageable, while providing a high level of support for those who need it.

Back to questions near top

Question: Why don’t you do Criminal Record checks on prospective tenants? How can you ensure that sex offenders are screened out?

In British Columbia, landlords and property managers acting on their behalf must adhere to the privacy rules contained in the BC Personal Information Protection Act (“PIPA”). These guidelines are intended to assist landlords and property managers in discharging their duties under the Residential Tenancy Act (“RTA”) in a manner that respects the privacy of tenants and promotes transparency in the operation of landlord and tenant relationships.

A landlord cannot as a condition of renting or providing any service to a tenant, ask for consent to collect personal information beyond what is necessary to provide tenancy or that service. Requiring a criminal records check is not reasonably necessary.

Sex offenders are on strict orders that prohibit them from being in areas where children are in close proximity. They must report their address to their probation / parole officer who would preclude them from residing at Mount Edwards; or indeed any apartment building in close proximity to Cathedral School.

Back to questions near top


Question: How will you find permanent homes for the people now living in Mount Edwards Court, when there are so few vacant apartments in Victoria and considering how expensive they are?

Answer: This question underscores the fact that there are currently not enough affordable rentals in the Capital Region. In the long term, the solution is continued construction of permanent affordable and supportive housing by all levels of government.

In the short term, Cool Aid is committed to finding permanent homes by April 2017 for the 38 residents who are now living in Mount Edwards Court. We will do this by moving some of the residents who need a higher level of support into our other ten apartment buildings, some into apartments operated by other non-profit organizations, and some into regular “market” apartments by subsidizing their rental costs and providing on-site support as needed.

Cool Aid’s long-term goal is, with community support, to build 360 more supportive housing apartments to help address this critical community need. This is the focus of our housing capital campaign.(Cool Aid has 45 apartments currently under construction in Saanich for seniors who are homeless.)

Back to questions near top

Question: Are guests allowed at Mount Edwards Court?

Answer: At the present time, while the residents settle into their new homes, Cool Aid is not allowing guests into the building who are not residents’ family members or helping professionals.

Most of Cool Aid’s other ten apartment buildings do accept guests, provided those guests are not creating a disturbance within the building or neighbourhood.

Cool Aid hopes that within a few months that Mount Edwards residents will also be able to invite guests into their homes. Access into the building will always be controlled by staff (i.e. locked) to ensure that only welcomed guests can get in.

Back to questions near top

Question: I know a lot of street people have pets. Do you allow pets at Mount Edwards Court or any of your other ten apartment buildings?

Answer: Pets are very important to people who have been homeless which is why most Cool Aid properties, including Mount Edwards, welcome our clients’ pets.

In fact, one of Cool Aid’s supporters is the Sooke Animal Food and Rescue Society (SAFARS), whose donors provide a significant amount of food for pets who are living with Cool Aid clients.

Back to questions near top

Question: Are the people living at Mount Edwards Court employed?

Answer: It might surprise neighbours to learn that a significant number of people who live in Cool Aid housing, including Mount Edwards, have regular jobs, as well as casual work. (This is also true of people staying in emergency shelters, like Rock Bay Landing and Sandy Merriman House.)

As well, Cool Aid has a longstanding policy of providing employment training opportunities for residents who want to gain some skills and earn a bit of money. Their janitorial contributions help build community and pride within the apartment buildings as well as providing new skills.

Other Cool Aid programs also provide employment training and placement opportunities for our residents and other clients:

  • Cool Aid’s Community Casual Labour Pool provides a free placement service for employers and casual workers who are available, trained and ready to work, including home owners who need help gardening, moving or with other needs.
  • The Downtown Community Centre, operated by Cool Aid at 755 Pandora Avenue near City Hall, provides employment training opportunities, lifeskills courses and healthy recreation opportunities for our residents and others. The free Community Kitchen program, for example, provides training in nutrition, food purchasing, preparation and storage, and leads to a Food Safe certification for participants.

The Beacon Services-Cool Aid Thrift Shop at 715 Pandora Avenue provides Cool Aid clients with employment training opportunities in retail operations as well as an inexpensive place to purchase clothing, household goods and other needed essentials.

Back to questions near top

Question: What are the expected outcomes for your residents?

Answer: Cool Aid’s agreement with the Province is quite clear about the expected outcomes for our residents. We are required to find permanent housing and any necessary supports that are needed for all 38 of our Mount Edwards residents and have them moved out not later than April 2017. During that process, Cool Aid will also support them in a variety of ways to improve their wellbeing, including help in locating employment, addiction treatment and improved health care.

Back to questions near top

Question: Does Cool Aid have any measurable results or evidence to show that your programs and services are successful?

Yes, Cool Aid utilizes a Balanced Scorecard methodology to measure our progress towards meeting our strategic objectives and reports out annually to the community. Cool Aid has also been featured in local and national research as an example of best practices in supportive housing.

Back to questions near top


Question:
Is it true that low barrier housing has been found to be detrimental to drug addiction recovery?

Answer: Perhaps counter-intuitively, the opposite has in fact been found. Insisting that people become “clean” before providing them with safe and secure housing simply keeps people homeless for longer – leading to more problems in neighbourhoods and more cost to taxpayers.

What works better is harm reduction and housing first, where people are accepted no matter what their condition, helped to stabilize in housing, and then encouraged to work on whatever challenges have caused them to become homeless, including addictions. This is what we are doing for residents at Mount Edwards Court who are struggling with addiction. While not everyone is able to overcome their addiction, many do, providing positive examples for their neighbours.

Back to questions near top


Question:
Will there be policies requiring residents to take prescribed medication for mental health conditions, and if so will this be enforced through supervision?

Answer: One of the important roles that our 24/7 Housing Support Workers provide is medication monitoring. As well, they interact with tenants every day to ensure that they are doing well and have all the support they need. When outside services are required, such as an ambulance, they are called in.

Back to questions near top


Question:
Will there be a safe injection site at Mount Edward?

Answer: No. There will be no drop-in services at the Mount Edward Court. Services are for residents only.

Back to questions near top


Question:
It sounds dangerous to house people with mental illness and addictions right beside Cathedral School. What assurances can you give that our children will not be harmed?

Answer: Whenever Cool Aid proposes a new apartment building neighbours are afraid. They often think that supportive housing looks like an emergency shelter or drop-in service where there can be spillover effects onto the sidewalk. Once we open and neighbours discover that the building is well managed and the residents well supported, there are very few problems or complaints. Check out the locations of our 14 facilities on this map.

Cool Aid’s own properties on the 700-block of Pandora Avenue provide an excellent example of how supportive housing can work well with neighbours, businesses and children nearby. 112 Cool Aid residents are housed on the block (including eight residents 19 years or younger) – from the same populations that Cool Aid is also housing at Mount Edwards Court.

The Downtown Community Centre is located immediately below/adjacent to 85 apartments for both adults and youth under 19 years.

Every weekday during the school year, groups of daycare providers rent the Community Centre’s gymnasium space for their preschool children to enjoy. As you can see from this online letter from a daycare provider, this has been working well for over 20 years for both the preschoolers and Cool Aid residents who benefit from their positive energy and encourage each other to be respectful and positive. To quote the daycare provider from her letter:

“Never in this time [20 years] have I or my children ever felt intimidated by the residents/clients of the facilities. In fact, it is quite the opposite. The residents/clients take great delight in watching the children and sometimes interacting with them – always with care and politeness and only after we have spoken first. I encourage the children to talk to everyone and if too shy to at least smile. The older children now recognize some of the longer time residents/clients and run up to say hi or show a special treasure they have. I really think this benefits the children and the residents/clients.”

Leagh Lawrence, Pedal Pusher Daycare

Additionally, for many years, the site was a host of the Out of the Rain youth shelter, for youth 19 years or younger who are homeless.

Cool Aid would be pleased to tour you through one of our sites, including Mount Edwards Court, so you can see for yourself how well a staffed supportive housing building fits into a neighbourhood even with child and youth services on site.

For tour bookings or information, please call Alan Rycroft at 250-414-4781 or email arycroft@CoolAid.org.

Back to questions near top


Question: Isn’t it true that Mount Edwards is a social experiment, providing supportive housing for such a large group beside an elementary school?

Answer: Mount Edwards Court is not a “social experiment”. There are numerous similiar projects located adjacent to schools in the Lower Mainland including Mole Hill & Lord Roberts Annex and Biltmore & Nightingale, which you can read about by clicking on the links.

Back to questions near top


Question:
How many staff are supporting the residents and neighbourhood at Mount Edwards Court?

Answer: Staffing levels are very high for our 38 residents and also for the neighbourhood.

Three professional resident support workers is the minimum staffing level at the site – that’s one staff person for each 13 residents — even during the middle of the night!

You will notice our Security Guard patrolling around the building between 7 am and 11 pm. From 11 pm to 7 am staff undertake periodic patrols of the exterior.

There is also be a full-time Client Support Worker dedicated to the building to assist residents with their goal planning, such as finding work, a permanent home and healthcare. Additionally there are visiting professionals such as nurses during weekdays. Finally, there is janitorial/maintenance staff and meals are being prepared off-site at our Swift street kitchen.

Mount Edwards has much higher staffing levels than Pandora Avenue, where we have successfully housed 112 residents for years with youth and child-serving programs on site every single day, including weekends.

We invite you to speak with our staff at Mount Edwards Court, or any other location, anytime. You can also call Mount Edwards 24/7 at 778-265-3456.

Back to questions near top


Question:
I live in the neighbourhood and see litter, discarded needles, loitering, drug trading and increased police interventions. Won’t these 38 residents make things even worse?

Answer: These behaviours are much more likely among people who are homeless than those housed in a caring and safe environment in their own apartment and supported by a group of professionals. Housing 38 of our neighbours who were living at the InTent City will reduce, not increase, such problems. When they are all safely housed with support workers we will see additional improvements in neighbourhood cleanliness and safety.

Needle sweeps in the area are performed by three groups. Both Sandy Merriman House and Mount Edwards Court have volunteer ‘Clean and Safe’ Teams. These teams cover an area of approximately two block radius around each building and safely dispose of needles and other garbage. They will also respond to a call from neighbours and Police if paraphernalia is found anywhere around either building. These teams are scheduled daily; however, at times volunteers are unable to attend their shift.

Mount Edwards Court also has Security on site daily between the hours of 7 am and 11 pm. During their hourly patrol of Mount Edwards and the adjacent block, which includes the school, the security officer sweeps for any needles, etc. and safely disposes of them.

Staff at Mount Edwards are always willing to attend and safely pick up needles in the neighbourhood if alerted by a neighbour. Their 24-hour phone number is: 778-265-3456.

Back to questions near top

Questions: What are your expectations of the residents?

Answers: At Mount Edwards Court, there is a dedicated staff person who works with the residents on developing and implementing their own personal plans for community integration. This could include, for example, goals and strategies to find permanent housing, employment, addiction treatment and improved health care.

Different people have different levels of success in improving their situation and resolving challenges.

At minimum, Cool Aid requires that all residents behave in appropriate ways both in the building and the neighbourhood. Any resident that is unable to be a good neighbour will be asked and assisted to help change any antisocial behaviours. If they are unsuccessful, the person may be moved to another building or evicted if necessary.

Back to questions near top


Question: Is there a process for neighbourhood input and consultation?

Answer: For Cool Aid, responding to neighbourhood concerns is a priority. As a way to do this, weekly neighbourhood meetings have been established, with representatives from the neighbourhood, Cathedral School, the City, police community liaison, Mount Edwards’ residents and Cool Aid. The weekly meetings are open to the public.

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Question:
Anyone who makes a modification to their home has to go through rezoning before proceeding. Why is the Province being allowed to do whatever they want in this building without a required rezoning?

Answer: By law, the Province has the right to avoid municipal zoning regulations.

However, the Province, the City of Victoria and Cool Aid have all publicly committed to a rezoning process for any permanent change in use of the property beyond March 2017.

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Question: The BC Government has announced they intend to open up 60 more apartments at Mount Edwards Count. Is that a good idea?

Answer: First off, the plan for the first year, until April 2017, has not changed — and that is to house and support up to 38 people who were formerly homeless and find them permanent housing within the year.

What happens after that is still subject to a public rezoning process that the Province, Cool Aid and the City of Victoria have all committed to undertake.

Furthermore, Cool Aid has committed to creating a process for dialogue with neighbours,school and Cathedral representatives before bringing forward a plan for rezoning. We need some time for the current operation to settle into a routine before we start this process.

After the rezoning process is completed, the neighbourhood will know with certainty what the long-term use of Mount Edwards Court will be.

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Additional Mount Edwards Information:

Mount Edwards main page

Housing First Research summary

Call Mount Edwards staff:  778-265-3456 or speak with our Community Liaison outside the building

Tours or more info about Cool Aid: Alan Rycroft, arycroft@CoolAid.org, 250-414-4781

 

Additional Housing Campaign Information

Help End Homeless campaign to house 360 people

Relevant definitions

Province Announces Housing at Mount Edwards Court

The Province is the owner of Mount Edwards Court. Here is their announcement news release:

NEWS RELEASE
Additional temporary shelter and housing coming to Greater Victoria
February 5th, 2016
Ministry of Natural Gas Development and Responsible for Housing

VICTORIA – The Province will provide an additional 88 units of transitional housing and shelter, as well as 40 rent supplements for campers currently residing at the Victoria courthouse lawns.

Thirty-eight transitional housing units will be offered at the Mount Edwards Court Care Home at 1002 Vancouver St., which will be operated by the Victoria Cool Aid Society. The Province has purchased the building from the Baptist Housing Society for $3.65 million. The housing units will open in the coming weeks for approximately 12 months, and units will be rented for $375 per month. Island Health will also provide clinical support services at the site.

An additional 50 shelter units will be available at the former Victoria Youth Custody Centre building at 94 Talcott Rd. in View Royal and operated by Our Place Society. Campers will be provided with three meals per day and have the option of camping in the courtyard, which can accommodate at least 20 tents. The View Royal shelter will be open for approximately six months and the Mount Edwards one for approximately 12 months.

These facilities will also provide a range of support services to provide the campers with access to more stable, long-term housing, including rent supplements that will be administered by Pacifica Housing. These units are in addition to the 40 spaces at the former Boys and Girls Club that were made available in December.

Both facilities are expected to be operational by Feb. 23, 2016.

These 88 units of transitional housing and shelter are in addition to the 147 year-round homeless shelter spaces, 125 extreme weather shelter spaces and 145 temporary shelter spaces available in Victoria.

Both non-profit housing operators will hold public information sessions for each location, where community members will be invited to voice their concerns. Dates and locations are still being determined.

Provincial representatives are delivering a notice to each of the campers this morning to advise them that they must vacate the courthouse property by Feb. 25 due to safety concerns and to advise them of the additional housing options.

Quotes:

Rich Coleman, Minister of Natural Gas Development and Minister Responsible for Housing ─

“We have created these additional living spaces and are providing support services to help homeless individuals take an important step to find permanent, stable housing. I hope that people take this opportunity to make meaningful changes in their lives.”

Mayor Lisa Helps, City of Victoria ─

“We’re happy to see this much-needed investment in affordable housing in Victoria. We look forward to working with the Province and the neighbourhood to determine the best long-term use for the facility.”

Mayor David Screech, View Royal ─

“The homeless issue is truly a regional problem, and we believe that all jurisdictions must be part of the solution. With that philosophy, we are prepared to support Victoria and BC Housing’s initiative to use the youth custody centre as a facility for the homeless on a temporary basis. Victoria and BC Housing have shown great leadership in bringing forward these solutions.”

Don McTavish, senior manager, Victoria Cool Aid Society ─

“Cool Aid is excited to have this opportunity to house and support 38 people who are today homeless. We appreciate the support of the Province and look forward to working with the new residents, Cathedral School and neighbours to ensure this housing program integrates successfully into the neighbourhood.”

Don Evans, executive director, Our Place Society ─

“We are excited to offer people an opportunity to focus on their health needs. This state-of-the-art facility can deliver secure and stable shelter with access to food, hot showers, laundry and programs. The members of tent city have been asking for a place where they can still camp outdoors, but with access to the necessities they need. This facility delivers that and more.”

Quick Facts:

  • The Province has invested more than $176 million over the past five years toward approximately 5,000 units of subsidized housing and rent supplements in Victoria.
  • In 2014-15, the B.C. government invested more than $19 million to provide subsidized housing and rent supplements for more than 5,100 households in Victoria. This includes providing support for more than 2,200 senior households and more than 1,300 family households.
  • There are nearly 150 year-round homeless shelter spaces available in Victoria.
  • Last winter, more than 145 additional shelter spaces were available across Greater Victoria to increase emergency shelter space when extreme weather conditions threatened the safety and health of individuals.
  • The daytime drop-in centre at Our Place operates with $500,000 in funding from the B.C. government. In addition, the Province provided $125,000 in one time funding to help Our Place stay open longer.
  • Since 2001, the B.C. government has invested $4.4 billion to provide affordable housing for low income individuals, seniors and families.
  • This year, more than 102,500 B.C. households will benefit from provincial social housing programs and services.
  • The Province provided approximately $213 million last year to support more than 13,200 emergency shelter spaces, subsidized housing units and rent supplements for those who were homeless throughout British Columbia.
  • Last year, the Province invested over $19.7 million to provide subsidized housing and rent supplements for more than 5,100 Victoria households, including more than 970 of those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Learn More:

To learn more about provincial programs and services to address homelessness in Victoria, please visit: www.bchousing.org and www.housingmattersbc.ca/docs/fs_Homeless%20Supports_Victoria.pdf

To see a map of permanent and temporary shelters in B.C., please visit: http://www.bchousing.org/Options/Emergency_Housing/Map

Media Contact:
Jenny Lee-Leugner
BC Housing
604 439-4195

DRAFT Mount Edwards Court Housing

On February 23, 2016, Victoria Cool Aid Society started operating the BC Housing-owned Mount Edwards Court to provide transitional housing and support services for 38 people; most of whom were homeless and living at the nearby tent city. Mount Edwards is located at 1002 Vancouver Street, at the corner of Rockland.

A year later, 20 individuals had been helped to find permanent housing who were living at Mount Edwards.

Here are some of the services Cool Aid is providing for the residents and neighbourhood:

  • Cool Aid has an operating agreement with BC Housing to provide transitional housing and supports for 38 people on the main floor.
  • Meals are provided every day for our residents.
  • Health supports are on-site weekly. Addiction and recovery supports are provided.
  • Life skills programming include financial and budgeting education.
  • Cool Aid has created a “clean and safe” team to help keep the neighbourhood clean and tidy. These teams pick up litter in the area near Mount Edwards Court.
  • Professional staff assist residents with goal setting and case planning, including assistance with locating permanent housing.

Web-sub-page-Banner-MT-Ed-BLANK-Feb-2016 Three Cool Aid Staff, including a dedicated, full-time Client Support Worker, are on-site 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, who can be reached anytime at 778-265-3456 or in person by going up to the building and pressing the doorbell.

There is secure access to the building with visitor/guest controls. The front entrance is on Vancouver Street and access is controlled by staff. Likewise, the accessible entrance for those with mobility challenges is on Rockland; with access also controlled by staff. All other doors are for emergency use only.

Cool Aid is committed to engaging in a public rezoning process as part of the long-term planning for the use of Mount Edwards Court.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learn more about Mount Edwards in our FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) or drop us a line.

You may also be interested in reading some research about Cool Aid’s programs and philosophy and why “housing first” and “harm reduction” are considered best practice in the sector.

See below for additional contact information.

Support for Mount Edwards Court

Our funding partner is the Province of BC (BC Housing). The City of Victoria provides a property tax exemption for the supportive housing.

Many neighbours support Cool Aid’s efforts to provide solutions to homelessness through the provision of housing and support services including:

Additional Information

Speak with the staff of Mount Edwards Court 24 hours any day at 778-265-3456 or contact the building coordinator John Sherratt by email at jsherratt@CoolAid.org.

If you have a suggestion, compliment or complaint, in addition to speaking with our staff on site, you can also fill out a form. A response will be given to you if you provide contact information.

To arrange a tour with Cool Aid and see for yourself what Cool Aid supportive housing looks like please feel contact: Alan Rycroft, arycroft@CoolAid.org, 250-414-4781.

If you are unable to get the answers you need, please feel free to contact a member of Cool Aid’s senior management team:


ORIGINAL

On February 23, 2016, Victoria Cool Aid Society started operating the BC Housing-owned Mount Edwards Court building to provide temporary transitional housing and support services for 38 people for approximately 12 months. Mount Edwards is located at 1002 Vancouver Street, at the corner of Rockland.

Cool Aid staff are on-site 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are three or more staff members at Mount Edwards at all times, with a security guard outside from 7 am to midnight each day.

We have a 24-hour phone number for any questions or immediate concerns. Please feel free to call Mount Edwards anytime at 778-265-3456, or speak with our staff by going up to the building and pressing the doorbell.

There will be secure access to the building with visitor/guest controls. The front entrance is on Vancouver Street and access is controlled by staff. Likewise, the accessible entrance for those with mobility challenges is on Rockland; with access also controlled by staff. All other doors are for emergency use only. At this time, resident guests are not accepted into the building.

Here are some of the services Cool Aid will be providing for residents and the neighbourhood:

  • Cool Aid has created a “clean and safe” team to keep the neighbourhood clean and tidy. These teams will pick up litter daily in the area near Mount Edwards Court.
  • Meals are provided every day for our residents.
  • Health supports are on-site weekly. Addiction and recovery supports are provided.
  • Life skills programming will include financial and budgeting education.
  • Professional staff assist residents with goal setting and case planning, including assistance with locating permanent housing.

Partners

  • BC Housing
  • City of Victoria (tax exemption)

Frequently Asked Questions

We know you have more questions about Mount Edwards and they are hopefully answered in our FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). If not, drop us a line with your question.

You may also be interested in reading some research about Cool Aid’s programs and philosophy and why “housing first” and “harm reduction” are considered best practice in the sector.

See below for additional contact information.

Neighbourhood Meetings

For Cool Aid, responding to neighbourhood concerns is a priority, which is why, together with community representatives, a draft Neighbour Relations Framework has been written. As well, regular neighbourhood meetings have been held with representatives from the neighbourhood, Cathedral School, the City, VicPD, Mount Edwards’ residents and Cool Aid. These meetings were open to the public and minutes can be found below.

There are no further neighbourhood meetings scheduled at this time. The original intent of these meetings was to provide a venue to bring forward concerns specific to the current operation of Mount Edwards and to share ideas about how we can all improve our neighbourhood. Given that neighbours were mostly interested in discussing the future of Mount Edwards, it makes sense to put these meetings on hold until such time as we have new information to share. BC Housing has advised that there are currently no plans to proceed with rezoning.

If you do have any concerns or suggestions regarding the current operation of Mount Edwards, please don’t hesitate to contact us; we can be reached in a variety of ways:

Mount Edwards Court

24 hour phone: 778-265-3456
John Sherratt, Coordinator, jsherratt@CoolAid.org,

Victoria Cool Aid Society

Don McTavish, Director of Residential Services, dmctavish@CoolAid.org
Kathy Stinson, CEO, kstinson@CoolAid.org

Minutes from previous neighbourhood meetings:

Support for Mount Edwards Court

Our funding partner is the Province of BC (BC Housing).

Many neighbours support Cool Aid’s efforts to provide solutions to homelessness through the provision of housing and support services including the following:

A few letters to the Times Colonist:

Web-sub-page-Banner-MT-Ed-BLANK-Feb-2016The Future

While the building is in use for short-term, transitional housing, Cool Aid will be leading a public process with the community and the City of Victoria to confirm the long-term use of Mount Edwards Court for permanent housing. The long-term use of the property in no way changes what is happening at Mount Edwards today:

  • Cool Aid has an operating agreement with BC Housing to provide transitional housing and supports for people in the 38 units on the main floor until March 2017.
  • Cool Aid is committed to engaging in a public rezoning process as part of the long-term plan.
  • Cool Aid won’t be in a position to begin discussion on those long-term plans until the current operation has had a chance to settle into a routine.
  • Cool Aid will engage a working group that includes representation from the school, the Cathedral, and the neighborhood as we develop the long-term plan.
  • Cool Aid is not fixated on a final number of apartments at this time; that will flow from the planning process.

Additional Information

Speak with the Community Liaison staff outside the building or call Mount Edwards Court directly anytime at 778-265-3456.

If you have a suggestion, compliment or complaint, in addition to speaking with our staff on site, you can also fill out a form. A response will be given to you if you provide contact information.

To arrange a tour with Cool Aid and see what supportive housing looks like please feel contact: Alan Rycroft, Community Relations, arycroft@CoolAid.org, 250-414-4781.

If you are unable to get the answers you need, please feel free to contact a member of Cool Aid’s senior management team:


Province of British Columbia

The Province is the owner of Mount Edwards Court. Below is their announcement news release:

NEWS RELEASE
Additional temporary shelter and housing coming to Greater Victoria
February 5th, 2016
Ministry of Natural Gas Development and Responsible for Housing

VICTORIA – The Province will provide an additional 88 units of transitional housing and shelter, as well as 40 rent supplements for campers currently residing at the Victoria courthouse lawns.

Thirty-eight transitional housing units will be offered at the Mount Edwards Court Care Home at 1002 Vancouver St., which will be operated by the Victoria Cool Aid Society. The Province has purchased the building from the Baptist Housing Society for $3.65 million. The housing units will open in the coming weeks for approximately 12 months, and units will be rented for $375 per month. Island Health will also provide clinical support services at the site.

An additional 50 shelter units will be available at the former Victoria Youth Custody Centre building at 94 Talcott Rd. in View Royal and operated by Our Place Society. Campers will be provided with three meals per day and have the option of camping in the courtyard, which can accommodate at least 20 tents. The View Royal shelter will be open for approximately six months and the Mount Edwards one for approximately 12 months.

These facilities will also provide a range of support services to provide the campers with access to more stable, long-term housing, including rent supplements that will be administered by Pacifica Housing. These units are in addition to the 40 spaces at the former Boys and Girls Club that were made available in December.

Both facilities are expected to be operational by Feb. 23, 2016.

These 88 units of transitional housing and shelter are in addition to the 147 year-round homeless shelter spaces, 125 extreme weather shelter spaces and 145 temporary shelter spaces available in Victoria.

Both non-profit housing operators will hold public information sessions for each location, where community members will be invited to voice their concerns. Dates and locations are still being determined.

Provincial representatives are delivering a notice to each of the campers this morning to advise them that they must vacate the courthouse property by Feb. 25 due to safety concerns and to advise them of the additional housing options.

Quotes:

Rich Coleman, Minister of Natural Gas Development and Minister Responsible for Housing ─

“We have created these additional living spaces and are providing support services to help homeless individuals take an important step to find permanent, stable housing. I hope that people take this opportunity to make meaningful changes in their lives.”

Mayor Lisa Helps, City of Victoria ─

“We’re happy to see this much-needed investment in affordable housing in Victoria. We look forward to working with the Province and the neighbourhood to determine the best long-term use for the facility.”

Mayor David Screech, View Royal ─

“The homeless issue is truly a regional problem, and we believe that all jurisdictions must be part of the solution. With that philosophy, we are prepared to support Victoria and BC Housing’s initiative to use the youth custody centre as a facility for the homeless on a temporary basis. Victoria and BC Housing have shown great leadership in bringing forward these solutions.”

Don McTavish, senior manager, Victoria Cool Aid Society ─

“Cool Aid is excited to have this opportunity to house and support 38 people who are today homeless. We appreciate the support of the Province and look forward to working with the new residents, Cathedral School and neighbours to ensure this housing program integrates successfully into the neighbourhood.”

Don Evans, executive director, Our Place Society ─

“We are excited to offer people an opportunity to focus on their health needs. This state-of-the-art facility can deliver secure and stable shelter with access to food, hot showers, laundry and programs. The members of tent city have been asking for a place where they can still camp outdoors, but with access to the necessities they need. This facility delivers that and more.”

Quick Facts:

  • The Province has invested more than $176 million over the past five years toward approximately 5,000 units of subsidized housing and rent supplements in Victoria.
  • In 2014-15, the B.C. government invested more than $19 million to provide subsidized housing and rent supplements for more than 5,100 households in Victoria. This includes providing support for more than 2,200 senior households and more than 1,300 family households.
  • There are nearly 150 year-round homeless shelter spaces available in Victoria.
  • Last winter, more than 145 additional shelter spaces were available across Greater Victoria to increase emergency shelter space when extreme weather conditions threatened the safety and health of individuals.
  • The daytime drop-in centre at Our Place operates with $500,000 in funding from the B.C. government. In addition, the Province provided $125,000 in one time funding to help Our Place stay open longer.
  • Since 2001, the B.C. government has invested $4.4 billion to provide affordable housing for low income individuals, seniors and families.
  • This year, more than 102,500 B.C. households will benefit from provincial social housing programs and services.
  • The Province provided approximately $213 million last year to support more than 13,200 emergency shelter spaces, subsidized housing units and rent supplements for those who were homeless throughout British Columbia.
  • Last year, the Province invested over $19.7 million to provide subsidized housing and rent supplements for more than 5,100 Victoria households, including more than 970 of those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Learn More:

To learn more about provincial programs and services to address homelessness in Victoria, please visit: www.bchousing.org and www.housingmattersbc.ca/docs/fs_Homeless%20Supports_Victoria.pdf

To see a map of permanent and temporary shelters in B.C., please visit: http://www.bchousing.org/Options/Emergency_Housing/Map

Media Contact:
Jenny Lee-Leugner
BC Housing
604 439-4195