The Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society is seeking a $100,000 capital grant from the city to develop a permanent aboriginal homeless shelter across from The Cobalt on Main Street.
“The need has been demonstrated for an aboriginal shelter in the Greater Vancouver area,” said Susan Tatoosh, executive director of the society.
Nearly one in four people surveyed in the 2011 Metro Vancouver Homeless Count were of aboriginal ancestry, despite aboriginal people accounting for two per cent of the city’s population in 2006, according to Statistics Canada.
The society has operated 100 spaces in the 201 Central temporary HEAT shelter near Main and Terminal since winter 2009.
Tatoosh said 70 to 85 per cent of its occupants are aboriginal. She said the shelter turns away five to eight individuals a night.
She said the city wants to develop the area where the warehouse sits [potentially for a farmers’ market] and noted government funding to operate the shelter expires at the end of March 2013.
The society wants to construct a permanent shelter for 100 aboriginal people on vacant city-owned property at 946 and 950 Main St. and to provide more than the basic services provided in the former warehouse.
“There’s an opportunity to provide counselling and to provide a means of assisting our client group or our guests to look seriously at transition housing and to look at getting out of the homelessness state and into something that is permanent for them and something that offers a future with a home in it,” Tatoosh said.
A social service centre and shelter is proposed for the first three floors of the building, “with consideration to social housing co-located above should the opportunity arise,” according to a city staff report.
Asked whether the centre would exclusively shelter aboriginal people, Tatoosh said “not necessarily.”
The 201 Central shelter operates a section for 10 women that’s full every night, according to Tatoosh. It tries to send the families that occasionally request shelter elsewhere.
The society wants a permanent shelter to provide separated accommodation for women and families.
The society would contract development services and property management of the shelter out to Lu’ma Native Housing Society, which is experienced in building, owning and operating affordable housing for urban aboriginal people with low to moderate incomes, according to a city staff report.
Estimated costs for the project have yet to be finalized. The society is discussing the possibility of securing $2 million in capital funding from B.C. Housing in addition to transferring operating funds from the temporary HEAT shelter to the permanent location. The society will also apply for a $2 million grant from Service Canada.
Vision Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is urging city council to approve the grant at its planning, transportation and environment meeting Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.
The $100,000 would come from the city’s capital budgets.