Indigenous-led housing project to open in Vancouver

The housing collaboration with the Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society is expected to be completed in 2023

Artistic rendering of 1015 East Hastings Street, Vancouver. (Low Hammond Rowe Architects / BC Housing)

The Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society will be operating another housing shelter located at 1015 East Hastings in partnership with the City of Vancouver and BC Housing.

This is part of an Indigenous-led development, and it will include more than 160 new homes and 80 new shelter beds.

The VAFCS will operate 80 beds for individuals experiencing homelessness while 25 homes will be designed for people working to live on their own, 85 will be affordable rental homes, and 53 will be market rental homes.

The VAFCS currently has the Skeena house, a housing centre with 57 units with 62 residents., and a shelter at 201 Central Street.

VAFCS program administrator Kaila Wong says the project has been in the works for a long time, and she’s happy with the announcement from the city.

Wong says this new building will have the qualities of VAFCS’s other locations, like housing, food, and mental health support.

When housing at the 1015 location becomes available, Wong says the VAFCS will prioritize the people staying at the current 201 location. Due to COVID-19 and the importance of maintaining social distancing, VAFCS is currently running the 201 shelter and another one in the gym of the friendship centre location.

Wong says both shelters are currently at a 50 person capacity, and it “shows that [VAFCS will] be filling those beds as soon as possible when … the actual shelter building [is ready].”

She adds that she would also like to provide the space to individuals in the Strathcona tent city, but she’s hoping housing will already be provided for them by the time the project finishes.

Lead social planner for the project, Lisa Jimenez, says it’s estimated the project will begin in the fall and that it should take about two years. She’s hoping the project can help the people who are experiencing homelessness begin their “healing process and their journey on healing.”

“I think it’s a beautiful mix and synergies that the city could really benefit and the area could benefit from,” says Jimenez. “I’m really excited to look for that and see more models of Indigenous-led projects across the city of Vancouver.”

Statistics show that Indigenous peoples make up a large portion of the homeless population in Vancouver. As the project is Indigenous-led, Wong says the project has the “opportunity to provide for the community” and give the people at the Vancouver’s Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society a chance to have access to additional housing support.

This will also help the people at VAFCS “learn about their culture and identity in a culturally appropriate and enhanced way,” Wong says.

Wong says she wants the project to bring “more affordable housing and people being able to … be empowered, responsible tenants.”  She says she doesn’t want people to continue to feel like they can’t provide for themselves.

“One thing about us is that we want to empower people. We want to ensure that people are taken care of, but also have that responsibility for themselves and a sense of pride that they have their own space to call home.”