Home Sweet Home
“This building is an absolute dream to operate,” says Aarmin Purewal, Operational Manager of Housing and Shelters at Our Place, and Site Supervisor of the building in question – Our Place’s brand new permanent supportive housing facility. Funded by BC Housing, in partnership with the federal government and the Capital Regional District (CRD), the building on Albina Street in Saanich was built to house residents who are still in need of a hand up, but are working towards living a healthy, stable life.
Albina is a dream for staff, like Aarmin, because the building is purpose-built supportive housing it means they can focus more on the needs of the residents rather than tending to issues with the building itself. “Three years ago many people moved into housing for the first time when sites became available to us, and were given the opportunity to stabilize after living on the streets for so long,” says Aarmin, who was once Site Supervisor at Muncey Place, the first hotel Our Place took over in 2020. “Those buildings weren’t meant to be supportive housing, so it’s taken us some time to turn them into the communities they are today. Now there’s a very strong sense of community within our buildings. Residents at Albina are mostly coming from the former Howard Johnson location where community already existed. We hope there will be more locations like this one soon.”
The new building is also a dream for it’s 52 residents, all of whom have experienced homelessness first-hand. Equipped with kitchenettes, a single bed, a full washroom and anything else you might find in a basic studio apartment, the rooms feature high ceilings and large windows that let in the light and foster positive energy. Albina is staffed with two Our Place housing support workers (who are there 24/7), and a site supervisor Monday to Friday, as well as peer support workers from Umbrella Society on weekdays. The team is there to provide practical services like life-skills training, employment assistance, physical and mental-health resources, meals, and referrals to addiction treatment and recovery services. They’re also there to provide kind, listening ears and non-judgmental support and care to meet people where they’re at.
“I am so grateful to be here,” says a resident of Albina. “I feel authentic connections with the other people who are living here and with the staff. This has given me a strong grounding and foundation.”
Albina also features a medical room, counselling rooms, a state-of-the-art kitchen where breakfast and dinner are provided each day, a common area space, and garden bed plots that are managed by the residents. “It’s a really happy place,” says Courtney Graham, Our Place’s manager of housing and shelters. “Residents have been telling staff and volunteers how much they are enjoying their new homes, especially the gardens and outdoor space. They are also loving being able to cook for themselves and have a guest over to share a meal with.”
This new building represents the final step in the continuum of care at Our Place. “At our organization, flow is everything,” adds Aarmin. “We have residents here at Albina who started out receiving services at our downtown Community Centre, then they went into My Place transitional shelter and lived there for a year, then they moved into Muncey, then here. One resident from our 919 Pandora housing moved in here, has since completed treatment and is now doing WorkBC training to enter the workforce again. Another resident has just been referred to our New Roads Therapeutic Recovery Community. That’s very, very rewarding for us to see.”
Being good neighbours and connecting with the greater community is also of utmost importance to Our Place and those we house. One neighbour, Barb, was instrumental in collecting tenant starter kits so those moving into Albina would be off to a new beginning the second they walked through the doors. “That’s the key to success in lifting people up,” says Barb. “People just need a friendly face. They are our neighbours just like anyone else and they are welcome in our neighbourhood. We are wishing them every bit of success and hoping for very positive things for them.”
“Our Place is now at the forefront of housing and for good reason,” says Aarmin. “At the end of the day, our agenda is to support our people, be good neighbours in our communities, and do what we do best, and that’s providing housing and supportive services needed by our city’s most vulnerable citizens.”
Along with Albina Street permanent supportive housing, Our Place operates seven more housing locations: 919 Pandora’Avenue housing and night shelter, My Place, Muncey Place, Capital City Centre, New Roads and JAYMAC Place. Please join us in supporting the continuum of care found at Our Place!