It was a celebration atmosphere at Grace Gardens.
After a couple years of planning, building, push back and delays, Stepping Stone's permanent supportive housing project held its grand opening Tuesday. It's located at the former Parkview Motel at 721 Woolwich St., on the corner of Woolwich and Marilyn Drive.
"It's a lot of work to get here," Stepping Stone's executive director Gail Hoekstra told GuelphToday. "It'll be a lot of work tomorrow and then upcoming months and years, but there's always joy peppered in."
By the end of the month, 32 residents experiencing homelessness will move into their new bachelor-style rooms, complete with a bed, kitchenettes, private bathrooms and a sitting area.
Four of the rooms are accessible, complete with wider doors, lower counters and accessible bathroom. Four rooms are also considered barrier-free, so more open space for those with walkers or others needing more room. One room also has automatic doors.
Besides the rooms, there are common areas including gathering places indoors and outdoors, a community kitchen, laundry services. There are also offices and consultation rooms for residents to meet with staff members.
"Staff are helping (the residents) gather what they need to make their space a home, so they want to decorate it and get all the furnishings going," Hoekstra said.
"Day-to-day after that, it's developing care plans around every single person, whether it's to help them with any of the mental health struggles, addiction struggles, medical issues, and so on. We'll depend and lean on our partners to help us with that."
Hoekstra said tenants have the same rights as any tenant would in a rental unit, protected under the Residential Tenancies Act.
Residents will have access to the support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And those living at Grace Gardens can stay as long as they need to.
"It is permanent, so if they need to stay, they stay," Hoekstra said. "But if they are ready to move on, then they move forward."
"The homelessness situation, addictions, mental health, is beyond the word crisis, and these units are the solution," said mayor Cam Guthrie. "Housing first. This is exactly what we need."
Grace Gardens is named after Grace Frank, a longtime supporter who donated $600,000 to help purchase the property in 2021 for $3.8 million.
It's one of three permanent supportive housing projects opening in Guelph this year.
Wyndham House opened the Bellevue project on Bellevue Street in May. In the fall, it's expected Kindle Communities will open its project on Shelldale Crescent.
Together, the three projects will provide housing for 72 residents who previously experienced homelessness.