In less than six months, stories of recovery have already emerged from a new four-storey, 54-unit supportive housing building in Penticton.
The Healing House, located at 3240 Skaha Lake Road, was officially unveiled Friday, Feb. 9, with elected officials, community leaders and the building’s support staff among those marking the occasion.
With 36 units currently occupied, the supportive housing building provides Indigenous-focused support for people in an alcohol and substance-free environment.
People experiencing or at risk of homelessness started moving into the building in August 2023.
“Ever since I’ve been in this building, I’ve never felt empty, I’ve never felt alone,” one resident told the large crowd Friday.
The building is called snpaʔx̌təntn, which means “a healing place” in Nsyilxcən — the language spoken by the Syilx peoples. Its opening was made possible through a partnership between the Ooknakane Friendship Centre, ASK Wellness, BC Housing and Penticton Indian Band.
“All of this is really reliant on partnerships,” said Boundary-Similkameen MLA Roly Russell. “One day on the street is one day too many for anyone…everyone deserves the opportunities that come with having a safe and stable place to call home.”
One former resident has since moved into market housing after spending time at the Healing House, Russell shared.
“That’s a pretty powerful testament right there,” the MLA added.
The Healing House represents a $15.9 million investment from the B.C. government. An operating subsidy of around $1.8 million will be provided annually.
Life and employment skills training, alcohol and drug counselling, as well as meal programs, are among the services offered 24/7.
“This is such an amazing event you’re all witnessing here today,” Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel said.
“The purpose and intent of this structure are to help those who are struggling and help those who are trying to recover.”
Penticton Mayor Julius Bloomfield, meanwhile, recalled when the building was first proposed to the city’s previous council. The now-mayor was a councillor at the time and said it took a lengthy discussion at city hall for the proposal to finally get green-lit.
“We realized the importance of this facility, came back and said ‘yes,’” Bloomfield said.
“Recovery-based and Indigenous-focused, these homes are another needed and welcome step for those on the journey of recovery.”
The four-storey building has 52 studio homes and two one-bedroom units for couples. Each unit has its own bathroom, kitchenette and basic furnishing, the B.C. government said.
Local Indigenous artists also contributed several commissioned pieces to the building.
“We can only do the change to bring everyone together if we take risks, and that risk is happening here today,” said Bob Hughes, executive officer at ASK Wellness Society. “We needed to put words into action and forge relationships into partnerships to get here.”