Nfld. & Labrador

The Gathering Place to extend to former convent as governments pledge millions

The former Sisters of Mercy Convent will be converted into an emergency shelter as well as transition apartments for vulnerable people.

Former Sisters of Mercy convent to be converted into emergency shelter and transition housing

The Gathering Place is expanding its services to the former Sisters of Mercy convent where millions will be spent to convert the space into shelter beds and transition units. (Paul Pickett/CBC)

The federal and provincial governments announced more than 100 new affordable housing spaces in St. John's on Friday, including a plan to convert an old convent into shelter and housing space.

The $20.2 million in funding — combining money from the federal and provincial governments and the Gathering Place —  will go toward 56 new supportive housing units and 40 new low-barrier emergency shelter beds. The Gathering Place will operate the facility at the former Sisters of Mercy convent.

"Through our everyday work with people who face systemic and social barriers every single day, who experience exclusion and discrimination, we have heard a strong plea for more emergency beds, for more and more affordable and safe housing," said Sister Elizabeth Davis, chair of the Gathering Place board of directors.

"And sadly, the COVID pandemic has intensified that need."

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey, left, sits alongside federal Housing Minister Ahmed Hussen, at a funding announcement at the Gathering Place in St. John's on Friday. (Paul Pickett/CBC)

The Gathering Place, which provides a number of services for vulnerable populations including food and shelter, opened an interim 30-bed shelter during the pandemic. 

"For several years now, we have been engaged in conversations with partners at the federal and provincial levels to respond appropriately to this plea," said Davis.

"The partnership announced today shows that we have truly heard the voices of those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless."

The remaining funds will be used to build 36 one- or two-bedroom homes operated by the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation in the Pleasantville area of St. John's. 

Federal Housing Minister Ahmed Hussen, in St. John's for the announcement, touted federal programs aimed at reducing homelessness. 

"These new housing options will support people who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of experiencing homelessness. It will also help people experiencing mental health and addictions issues as well as Indigenous peoples," said Hussen.

Premier Andrew Furey said the new spaces will not completely match the current need but they're a step forward. 

Work is expected to begin immediately on both housing projects. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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