Homeward Trust opens new housing complex in Edmonton

Residents are offered three meals a day and snacks, fully furnished rooms, free laundry facilities, medication monitoring, and assistance with daily living, recreational and support activities.

Iris Court now home to 21 people living with severe and persistent mental illness

Cutting the ribbon for the grand opening of Iris Court on Thursday were (left to right) MP Tim Uppal, MLA David Dorward, Rubyann Rice and Len O'Connor from the Schizophrenia Society, and Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens.

Edmonton Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens came out from behind his mask Thursday to help celebrate the opening of a new supportive-housing complex in Bonnie Doon for people with severe mental illnesses.

Iris Court is already at capacity. Its 21 tenants now have support staff on duty 24 hours per day, seven days a week. Residents are offered three meals a day and snacks, fully furnished rooms, free laundry facilities, medication monitoring, and assistance with daily living, recreational and support activities.

Earlier this year, the soft-spoken Scrivens, who acted as emcee for the grand opening, commissioned two artists with schizophrenia to design goalie masks he could wear in NHL games. The masks were later auctioned to raise $21,000 to support mental health services in the city.

David Dorward, Alberta's associate minister for aboriginal relations, spoke about his own struggles a decade ago with mental illness.

“A huge part of getting through that time in my life was the strength of having a home, and having people around who would support me," he said.

The project itself faced hurdles along the way. It was originally planned for the McCauley neighbourhood, but residents there went to court to block it. Now, four years later, on the other side of the river, the complex is open and already filled with tenants.

Rubyann Rice, executive director of the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta, said the city needs many more facilities to meet current needs.

“Just providing housing for one person makes a huge difference in our city," she said. "There probably could be 20 homes like this, or more, for the city of Edmonton alone.”

Homeward Trust Edmonton provided $1.6 million to fund the purchase and renovation of Iris Court, with help from the federal and provincial governments, REALTORS Community Foundation, and The Stollery Charitable Foundation.

The complex, at 8533 90th Street, provides safe and stable homes for people with severe and persistent mental illnesses.

“Many people, without a facility like this, end up homeless," said Susan McGee, CEO of Homeward Trust

Homeward Trust is currently working to find sites and funding to open many more facilities like Iris Court, she said.

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