The Kingsway Continental, formerly the Ramada Inn, is scheduled to open in fall 2013. The City purchased it in November 2012 to turn into non-market housing. A coalition of local service providers is collecting donations for welcoming kits for incoming residents.
BY DEANNA CHENG
Renfrew-Collingwood is gearing up to welcome the Kingsway Continental and its new tenants moving in from the Old Continental this fall. From an open house and community meetings, the City of Vancouver worked with a group of Renfrew-Collingwood service providers, identifying needs and concerns for a smooth transition.
Once the Ramada Inn, located at 3484 Kingsway at Tyne, the building will also house local residents requiring affordable housing as well as, temporarily, residents of BC Housing buildings undergoing renovations.
The committee working with the City includes Collingwood Neighbourhood House (CNH), the Collingwood Community Policing Centre, the Collingwood Business Improvement Association, the Evergreen Community Health Centre and the Renfrew-Collingwood Homelessness Community.
Angela Evans, the executive director of the Collingswood BIA, said, “The tenants were notified at the same time, about seven months ago, so it is not a surprise and people have time to process.”
CNH’s executive director Jennifer Gray-Grant said, “The neighbourhood’s expectation is for the new tenants to live here, get services locally and feel comfortable enough to participate in the community.”
Local service providers, residents and youth are putting together welcome kits with shopping bags provided by the Collingwood BIA.
Gray-Grant asks the public to donate everyday necessities such as socks, toothpaste, toothbrushes, razors and shaving cream. These could be dropped off at Collingwood Neighbourhood House (5288 Joyce Street) or the Collingwood Community Policing Centre (5160 Joyce Street).
“The welcome packages will include information on local services and businesses. There will be coupons, socks, toques and toiletries, for example,” she said.
According to the City’s Kingsway Continental Q-and-A sheet, most of the tenants of the Old Continental (a City-operated non-market housing building in downtown Vancouver that will close) are men over the age of 45, primarily on welfare or receiving a pension. “Many tenants at the Old Continental are living with mental health or addition issues or other medical conditions.”
“The Evergreen clinic has said it has the capacity to work with the new residents,” notes Gray-Grant. “And here at CNH we provide breakfast for those who are homeless or tentatively housed every Saturday with our Morning Star breakfast-and-shower program. They are welcome to join us.”
Gray-Grant also said there are other adult and seniors programs and initiatives available at CNH.
Evans said, “It has been a positive process. To see everyone come together as a community–the businesses, people, associations, volunteers–everyone on every level is committed and on the same page. They’re welcoming, not barring anyone. “
She said members of the BIA were asked to contribute next month.
Jennifer Standeven, the City of Vancouver spokesperson for this project, said that, based on the open house event held at the neighbourhood house, she found residents warm and welcoming. Some of them mentioned the possibility of moving to the Kingsway Continental when they get older and want a smaller or more affordable place.
“They see it as a community resource,” Standeven said.
Gray-Grant said, “We have the highest number of seniors of any Vancouver neighbourhood. As well as the highest number of youth and second highest number of children.”
Having this building available nearby means residents on limited incomes will have one more option for staying within their community of friends and neighbours.
One of the priorities set out by the Metro Vancouver Affordable Housing Strategy is to “increase the supply of modest cost housing.” The Kingsway Continental Q-and-A says the hotel has 123 rooms.
“The first priority is housing the tenants from the Old Continental,” said Standeven. “The second priority is to support BC Housing while they renovate their old buildings. People will be able to stay temporarily at the Kingsway Continental.”
Standeven estimates these members would stay from 12 to 18 months at a time while renovations happen.
“And the third priority is two-fold: to acquire or build social housing across Vancouver and to build community partnerships to support affordable housing across the city. We want neighbourhoods to feel good about this.
“Collingwood has been fabulous because they want to see more social housing in the neighbourhood,” she said.
According to the Metro Vancouver Housing Data Book, BC Housing collects data on households that have applied for social housing in Metro Vancouver and there is a wait list. While the waiting list indicates a need for affordable housing, it is not necessarily an accurate measure of the demand.
The book notes, “the number of households in Metro Vancouver waiting for social housing has increased by 35%, from 6,630 in 2009 to 8,955 in 2012.”
The City of Vancouver is the municipality with the greatest number of households waiting for social housing at 3,632 households. It is followed by Surrey (1, 305), Burnaby (1,182) and Richmond (599).
There is a possibility of the Collingwood Legion leasing the former pub space on the ground floor; they are currently in the middle of negotiations and nothing is confirmed.
Standeven said, “Once the tenants are settled in, the community will be invited for a welcome, possibly in October.”
For information about the welcome kits, please contact CNH at 604-435-0323.
For more information about the Kingsway Continental project, go to http://vancouver.ca/people-programs/kingsway-continental.aspx.
Deanna Cheng is a journalism student at Langara College.
Copyright (c) 2013 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News