Life is much better for Stacey Horbacio these days.
Gone are the nights in shelters and living in single-room occupancy hotels. A hospital stay a while back after he attempted suicide is, thankfully, a distant memory.
Now the 43-year-old transplanted Win-nipeger has his own place, receives medication for his bipolar disorder and is hopeful he can find a part-time job soon to supplement his $906 in monthly income assistance.
"I feel great," he said, standing outside an apartment building near Main and Second Avenue, where he's lived since June.
The building is called First Place and is one of the recently opened social housing developments built under a partnership with the B.C. government and the city.
Horbacio, a trim, bespectacled man, lives in one of the 129 units in a 320square-foot room equipped with a kitchen and washroom.
Like him, his neighbours were homeless or at risk of homelessness and many continue to live with an addiction or mental illness.
The B.C. government provided $22.8 million for the construction of the building and funds its operating costs. The city provided the land and Lookout Emergency Society manages and operates the building, where tenants are offered counselling and access to health workers.
On Tuesday, Horbacio welcomed the provincial minister responsible for housing, Rich Coleman, and Mayor Gregor Robertson to the building for its official opening.
Robertson's goal, which Coleman agrees is feasible, is to end "street homelessness" in Vancouver by 2015. The city's homeless count done in the spring recorded 1,600 homeless people, the majority of whom live in shelters.
When all 14 city properties dedicated to the construction of social housing are built, more than 1,500 units will have been created. So far, seven buildings have opened.
"We are turning the tide on homelessness in Vancouver after a decade of great struggle and great suffering," the mayor told the audience gathered at the opening. "But we're not there yet."
Coleman said in an interview after the press conference that efforts by his government, which have included the opening of shelters, and securing a deal with the city on the 14 properties has dramatically reduced the number of homeless people living on the streets.
"We're just going to continue to bang away at it," said Coleman, who added that winter shelters will soon open again in the city. "I think [ending street homelessness by 2015] is a laudable goal and I think it's achievable."
For Horbacio, having a permanent home has helped him get his life back on track. The fact that a support worker ensures he takes his medication every morning to treat his bipolar disorder is crucial, he said.
"They actually care about you here- you're not here on your own," Horbacio said. "When you live in a positive environment, you're energetic, you want to do things, you want to be positive to your building, to your neighbourhood, to your community."
He has experience as a short order cook and gas station attendant but said he will take any kind of part-time work. Government rules on income assistance state he can earn up to $200 per week to supplement his welfare.
"I love my place," he added. firstname.lastname@example.org