Cloverdale’s Bill Reid Memorial Shelter will celebrate its grand opening this Friday.
The new, purpose-built building houses 16 beds for those who are homeless, as well as an additional 12 studio suites, which will provide a resource to those who are ready to leave a shelter but may still require social supports.
The new shelter will replace Hyland House, an aging 10-bed farmhouse that Options Community Services previously operated next door.
“It’s such a huge improvement. It makes it so much easier to work with our clients,” said Bruce Strom, Assistant Program Manager at Bill Reid Memorial Shelter.
Strom explained that the “thoughtful” design of the building makes all the difference. It includes a communal dining area, a den with a T.V., a breakfast nook, a space with computer terminals for client access, and administrative spaces. It’s a far cry from the Hyland House nearby, which is now “pretty dilapidated,” said Strom. The energy-efficient building even has in-floor heating.
One of the features Strom is most excited about is the industrial kitchen. “It’s not only going to allow us to provide some great meals for all of our clients, but it’s also going to allow us other opportunities,” said Strom, explaining that there could be room for training sessions or community engagement. (The Options team cooked up a great entry in the 2018 Chili Cook-Off last Friday in downtown Cloverdale, earning second place.)
Outside, Bill Reid Memorial Shelter already has the beginnings of a working, edible landscape. The building is located on a 37-acre parcel of farmland — the majority of the land is leased by Nicomekl Farms, the shelter has about three acres for its on use. Along with its open-air courtyard, the shelter also has fruit trees, blueberry bushes and strawberries, and an herb garden on site.
Eventually, the three acres will provide an opportunity to set up a small-scale, therapeutic farm, but that will come after community consultation with local agriculture experts.
Bill Reid Memorial Shelter is located near the intersection of Highway 10 and Highway 15, at 17910 Colebrook Road. The remoteness of the site is both one of its greatest assets and its greatest challenges.
“One of the biggest positives about this space is its remoteness. We’ve got so much farmland and so much nature right around us,” said Strom. There’s an active eagle nest on the site, muskrat dens, red-winged blackbirds, and at least one great blue heron, who can often be seen perched on top of the building.
“It’s a fantastic location, but that’s also its challenge, because of its remoteness,” said Strom. “Many [clients] have no transportation, and here we are at the end of a long farm road. People’s ability to access transit is very, very limited here.
Strom said they are working on overcoming that challenge, and that he would one day like to see a shuttle service go from the shelter to downtown Cloverdale, so that clients could access the transit system.
When the shelter opens on Friday, it will become part of Cloverdale’s “period of revitalizing,” said Strom.
The project has been in the works for nearly a decade. Former MLA Bill Reid, who passed away in 2013, was a champion of the project, introducing the idea in 2009. Reid was known in the community for bringing together businesses and local government to create resources, support and shelter for the homeless.
According to Christine Mohr, Executive Director of Options Community Services, the upcoming grand opening is a “really special moment.”
“This shelter really sprang from incredible grass roots support, and the dedication of all our partners to make this happen. We are so proud to be able to honour Bill’s memory in this way,” she said.
Members of Options Community Services, BC Housing, the City of Surrey and the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society will gather on Friday to celebrate the opening.
The building already houses several clients who were living at the now closed Hyland House. With finishing touches now completed, Bill Reid Memorial Shelter will open to its new capacity after Friday.
In a press release, Minister for Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson, said she “would like to thank all of the partners who stepped up to deliver this much-needed project to help people in the community who are experiencing homelessness.”
The project was made possible through a $4.2-million investment from the provincial and federal government, through the Investment in Affordable Housing Agreement. The land for the site, valued at $2.8 million, was provided by the City of Surrey, along with nearly $150,000 through the Surrey Homeless Fund. Options, which operated Hyland House for more than eight years, provided $420,000 to the project.
“Everyone deserves a safe and secure place to call home which is why our government is responding to the urgent homelessness crisis in British Columbia by working with communities like Surrey, to help build the supportive housing people need,” she said.