YWCA moving forward with affordable housing projects for single mothers

"If you have to spend all of your money on rent you simply cannot get ahead; you’re just struggling all the time,” Lisa Rupert says

It has been almost a year since the YWCA’s Cause We Care House opened its doors near Heatley Avenue and East Hastings Street. Today, 57 single mothers and their children call it home.

The Dialog-designed building is the result of a partnership between the Vancouver Public Library, YWCA Metro Vancouver and the City of Vancouver and contains 21 units of social housing above the VPL’s Strathcona Branch, which was given a name that expresses the idea of “we are one” in the Musqueam language.

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Lisa Rupert, YWCA’s VP of housing services and violence prevention, said four floors above the library continue to provide affordable housing for single mothers and their children.

Rupert said a single mother living on income assistance with one child would receive $570 a month for shelter and about $400 a month for other living costs.

“That isn’t enough for market rent for a one bedroom apartment in Vancouver, which is over $1,730 right now. If you have to spend all of your money on rent you simply cannot get ahead; you’re just struggling all the time,” she said.

The number $1,750, is what the city deems affordable rental rates for a one bedroom in their latest report.

Rupert said their model involves offering support services in addition to housing. An onsite community development coordinator meets with tenants and helps them create programming in the form of workshops, guest speakers or tenant events. Women can access childcare services, emergency food vouchers and employment programs through the YWCA Crabtree Corner Community Resource Centre.

Rupert said employment programs and bursaries are generating the most interest because the women “are exploring their options so that they can go back to school and have a better life for themselves and their families.”

Strathcona library and housing
Fifty-seven single mothers and their children call Cause We Care home. It also houses the Strathcona library. - Dan Toulgoet

The library on the bottom floor provides an additional resource. “I see the families that live upstairs coming out of the library with books and their kids are all excited about it. It’s great,” she said.

The YWCA is working on two other projects to provide affordable housing and has over 1,000 families on its waitlist.

One of these projects is the Fire Hall No. 5 and YWCA Pacific Spirit Terrace development on East 54th Avenue and Kerr Street. Pacific Spirit Terrace will provide 31 new homes for single mothers and their children on the top four floors of a six-storey building above a fire hall.

Pacific Spirit Terrace is a partnership with the City of Vancouver, Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services and the YWCA that is scheduled to open at the end of October or early November.

Rupert said there is another early stage project with Chard Development to build rent geared to income and lower-end-of-market housing in St. Georges, North Vancouver.

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