Community's rescue of Saint John transitional housing project 'almost miraculous'
Women's transitional housing almost lost $2M grant because of rising construction costs
A New Brunswick community saw the challenge facing a women's transitional housing project and rose to the occasion.
The Coverdale Centre for Women in Saint John was racing against time to raise $400,000 in two weeks.
The centre had received $2 million in government grants for a 12-unit affordable housing project in Waterloo Village, but rising building costs resulted in a shortfall. If the centre couldn't raise that money, the government grants would have been withdrawn.
Graham Savage, the project manager, said that with crowd funding and a large grant, the project is saved.
"It's almost miraculous that here we are," he told Information Morning Saint John.
Individual small donations and crowdfunding brought in more than $150,000, Savage said. The rest came from a grant from a foundation that asked the centre not to reveal its identity yet.
Savage said the project is now slated to break ground in April, and the building will go up quickly.
It's made of modular, prefabricated buildings similar to mini-homes, he said. Once the foundation is done, the buildings will be stacked up by cranes.
"Over a matter of days, rather than weeks and months, you're going to see the building just come to life," he said.
It makes me happy that I'm raising a daughter here.- Julia Woodhall-Melnik, UNB research chair
Savage said the building on the corner of Brunswick Drive and Middle Street is scheduled to be completed and ready for occupants by the end of July or the first of August.
Julia Woodhall-Melnik, an associate professor and director of the housing mobilization and engagement research lab at the University of New Brunswick, is one of the people behind the fundraising effort.
The university is working with the centre to start a 20-year research project about the impact of this type of housing project, she said.
It's the first of its kind in Saint John, where the units act as an intermediate step between emergency shelters and regular housing. She said the women living there will have access to mental health and addiction services.
She said once she heard of the shortfall, she started a crowdfunding campaign and started reaching out to people. She credits the quick, generous response to people understanding the importance of housing for the most vulnerable.
"People are starting to really feel that there's nowhere for people to move from shelters to housing," she said. "It makes me happy that I'm raising a daughter here."
Shelters often at capacity
Since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, emergency and homeless shelters have been seeing an increase in occupancy. The Coverdale shelter itself has been at capacity for months, the centre director previously said.
"Folks do really need options and we can't keep people in shelters forever," Woodhall-Melnik said.
Savage said donations are still coming in, and every dollar will go toward the project. He said any extra cash will go toward building, whether for programming, fundraising or building a green space with raised garden beds so the women could grow food and flowers.
"One of the biggest things that we anticipate happening is helping with life skills," he said. "Something as simple as having your own space and maintaining it. … Those life skills that most of us take for granted."
With files from Information Morning Saint John
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