This District of Houston vacant lot at 3448 10th St. could one day be the spot for a Dze L’Kant Friendship Centre affordable housing project and childcare location now that the District is to enter into negotiations for a long-term lease with the centre. Closest to the parking sign is a residence and across the street is Pharmasave. Behind the house is the Sunshine Inn. (District of Houston photo)

Friendship centre shifts sights to housing grant for women, children fleeing violence

The organization is shifting it’s vision for a building at 3448 10th Street

The Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre Society is shifting its vision for a project at 3448 10th Street.

Following the revelation that the Indigenous Housing Fund’s second call for proposals — which they were planning on applying to — has been delayed, the organization is now looking at securing grants to build transitional housing for women and children at risk of or fleeing violence.

“We believe that there is a valuable opportunity available through BC Housing’s Building BC: Women’s Transitional Housing Fund to meet identified need in Houston,” Executive Director with the organization Annette Morgan told the District of Houston in a June 11 letter which was received at their June 16 meeting.

Morgan said the friendship centre feels that their revised proposal would create culturally appropriate and safe housing for some of the region’s most vulnerable residents. She added that the location’s proximity to downtown is another factor they feel will help increase the project’s success.

READ MORE: Canada Day event cancelled in Houston

Their initial proposal also included childcare spaces on the ground floor. However, upon advice that applying to two different government funding streams (BC Housing and BC Childcare Spaces) could provide challenging and the latter’s selection committees were giving preference to communities with an official childcare plan, which the District of Houston does not currently have, Morgan said they have opted to go for the transitional housing funding.

The end goal of the revised proposal is to provide a safe alternative to the current privately-owned rental market in the region. The finished project would provide subsidized housing for women and their families who are at risk of or fleeing from violence. It would also include wrap-around services and supports for its residents.

Morgan said if successful in their grant funding they feel the project would be a net positive to the region and that social housing would provide an opportunity for children who might not otherwise have it to grow up in a safe environment.

“Too often, children are being removed from their mothers and placed into foster care due to poverty issues rather than neglect,” said Morgan. “On many occasions, we have learned that if mothers had access to appropriate housing their young children would have been able to remain in their care.”

As an Indigenous organization, she said the friendship centre’s vision behind the housing is to “ [support] the tenants to feel a sense of belonging and cultural pride” by providing culturally-appropriate housing and support programs to the people accessing the service.

“Our capacity to support families in Houston is well known in the community and we believe we have the ability to ensure that women and children in our housing development are well supported toward holistic health and wellness.”

The District of Houston previously passed a motion to enter into a long-term lease agreement with the friendship centre for the site at 3448 10th Street at a Feb. 18 meeting. Morgan said this will allow the organization to apply for seed funding through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to undertake preliminary project development work with development consultants, designers/architects to further explore design/concept.

“Securing this funding will help ensure we can put forth a strong and feasible project to BC Housing with the goal of a successful Women’s Transitional Housing Fund project in 2021,” she said.

The Houston Friendship Centre currently provides a wide range of programming, much of which Morgan said is already consistent with the vision they are trying to achieve with their new development. This includes a pregnancy outreach program, early childhood development program, an Indigenous housing support worker and an afterschool program.
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