Shepherds of Good Hope unveils newest supportive housing residence

The yellow brick building at 1095 Merivale Rd. is home to Shepherds of Good Hope's newest supportive housing residence.  (Michel Aspirot/CBC - image credit)
The yellow brick building at 1095 Merivale Rd. is home to Shepherds of Good Hope's newest supportive housing residence. (Michel Aspirot/CBC - image credit)

Five days ago, Michael Paré rolled his wheelchair into the yellow brick building at 1095 Merivale Rd. that's now become his new home.

The 55-year-old said he became homeless a few years ago after his apartment building in Vanier was condemned, and a foot infection resulted in a 15 weeks-long stay at the hospital. He said he then spent 18 months in a shelter before moving to the streets.

Paré said he now finally feels safe at Shepherds of Good Hope's newest supportive housing residence.

"The safe environment here has been a real turnaround for me," said Paré, "This provides ... all the things I need to get healthier."

Paré said he has been allocated a studio apartment complete with an en-suite washroom and a balcony.

"It's a beautiful place here," he said. "It doesn't feel like a shelter or hospital."

The Shepherds of Good Hope will provide housing to 57 people including Paré who were experiencing chronic homelessness at its sixth supportive housing residence, according to president and CEO Deirdre Freiheit.

The building features studio apartments and rooms, along with a community kitchen and access to extensive outdoor greenspace, according to a news release issued by the organization.

"This location has actually helped us tip the scales," said Freiheit, "We have more people in supportive housing now than we do in our shelters."

Harm reduction services also offered

The Shepherds of Good Hope said it has a total of 291 supportive housing units across the city, while its shelter provides emergency temporary shelter for up to 254 people.

Its news release states residents of the new facility will receive "around-the-clock wrap-around supports," ongoing care and medical support from Ottawa Inner City Health and harm reduction services for those in need. Residents also have "recreational activities, life skills and community building opportunities" available to them.

"A lot of people who have spent a lot of time on the streets, their life expectancy is lower, their health is very compromised," said Freiheit.

"When we can wrap those supports around them, then they can often start to improve in those areas and then they can start to work on other things."

Freiheit emphasized housing is the way to end chronic homelessness.

"They can be here for as long as they want. This is their permanent home for as long as they want it," she said. "They are welcome here for life."

Freiheit said another new building is currently in the works for 216 Murray St., down the street from its shelter.

'Finally, I got a home'

"If you've ever lived in a shelter, you don't want to live there," said Ken Tracey, who will now live at the new supportive housing residence.

Tracey, who uses a wheelchair, said the building is easy for him to navigate — even his washroom is wheelchair-accessible — and the staff ensures he is well taken care of.

"This is one big family here," said Tracey. "They're going to help me get a new leg, my eyes fixed, my teeth fixed. ... No one else was willing to help me."

Above all, Tracey said he feels hopeful.

"Finally, I got a home, a place to rest my head. ... I feel at home."