Plans to convert the Parkview Motel into a permanent supportive housing project have taken a major step forward as the Woolwich Street property now officially belongs to the Welcome In Drop-In Centre.
“We have been working towards a purchase of this nature for nine years,” said Gail Hoekstra, executive director of the Drop-In Centre, in a news release. “Grace Gardens (as the facility will be known) will have an impact, one way or another, in helping us restore hope, safety and grace for individuals who need it most.”
The Drop-In Centre and now-former owners signed a letter of agreement last year that would see the property change hands for $3.8 million. The deal closed on March 29.
In order to complete the purchase, the agency “leveraged its assets” to obtain a loan from London Community Foundation's Social Impact Fund and received $1.2 million in funding from the County of Wellington and Ontario’s Social Services Relief Fund.
“Wellington County council is pleased to help fund this purchase and provide operating support to Grace Gardens” said Kelly Linton, Wellington County Warden, in the release. “We are committed to working collaboratively with partners in our community to end homelessness in Guelph-Wellington.”
The county oversees supportive housing programs on behalf of the City of Guelph.
The drop-in centre is seeking a zone change on the property to allow for permanent supportive housing. That application will go to council on Monday for a decision; city staff is recommending approval.
“We’re hopeful that we can proceed with our proposal to create an intentionally-planned and beautified space to provide housing stability and supports for 32 individuals – that is our first choice,” said Hoekstra. “If the zoning is approved, we are in a much better position to be eligible for government funding to help with the renovations to create the best version of Grace Gardens for our community.”
If council endorses the zone change, the project would see the motel at 721 Woolwich St. – on the northeast corner of the intersection of Woolwich Street and Marilyn Drive, near Riverside Park – converted into up to 32 bachelor apartments intended to house members of the city’s homeless population.
Renovations are planned to enlarge windows, widen a hallway to improve accessibility, and provide a shared kitchen, as well as space for 24/7 support services.
That work is expected to begin in the “coming weeks,” with Grace Gardens ready to welcome residents in May.
“Individuals that have been staying at the Parkview are being supported by Drop-In Centre staff to determine their next steps,” said Hoekstra in an email. “No one is being asked to leave immediately – we will ensure they transition safely into different living situations.”
If the requested zone changes aren’t approved, the motel building will be operated as a shelter, providing temporary housing for individuals experiencing homelessness, notes the news release, adding staff members would be on site.
Parkview Motel has been used as a shelter overflow location since the 1980s.
The Drop-In Centre previous requested a $540,000 contribution from the City of Guelph for the project, but may no longer be seeking those funds.
"If we are lucky enough to get zoning approval, it is our hope that we can access federal funding if there is a second round of funding for the Rapid Housing Initiative. This path would allow other (permanent supportive housing) projects to access the city funds," Hoekstra said.