Last Thursday (June 30) Grandview Calvary Baptist Church hosted a ground-breaking event for the Co:Here Housing Community project – a four-storey, affordable housing complex with 26 self-contained units.
Following several short talks, participants walked one block east along 1st Avenue to Victoria Drive to the site of the new building, the church’s former parking lot.
Deputy Mayor Heather Deal and Vancouver-Fraserview MLA (and Minister of Justice) Suzanne Anton were among the dignitaries who took part, accompanied by representatives from Streetohome, CMHC, BC Housing and Salsbury Community Society.
Pastor Tim Dickau spoke to those assembled; following are his comments and his prayer:
We are grateful that this day has finally arrived. Over a decade in the planning, it a great joy to see this project finally coming to fruition. We are grateful to God who sustains all life, grateful for the opportunity to build this project on the unceded territories of the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh peoples and grateful for all the partners who have helped make this possible, including Salsbury Community Society, Co:Here Housing Community, Hawthorne Charitable Foundation, Dragon Fire Foundation, BC Housing, Streetohome and the city.
In various places in the Bible, we find this vision of a society where everyone has a home – which is an especially significant dream, given that the Hebrew people in the Bible were for long periods landless and homeless. One of the marks of the early church was that they took those abandoned and homeless folk in the Roman empire and invited them to live with them.
The Co:Here housing project is part of this ongoing story and shares this same vision. From the time we began discussing how to utilize the lot we purchased next to our parking lot back in 2002, the focus has been on providing a home for those in our neighbourhood who are without a home, a stable home.
After first partnering with More than a Roof housing – whom I’d like to thank for helping us develop our own capacity and vision within Salsbury – we eventually came up with this particular project that offers much community space, retains the garden that has been present for many years and unites people dealing with poverty with a few other folks who will live there to help foster this place becoming a good home.
This project also underscores the recognition that housing is a basic human need – and right. By offering up its land and forming a partnership with Salsbury Community Society and Co:Here Housing, the church hopes to widen the imagination of other faith communities that they might use their land assets in the city to create more homes, more space for those who are being forgotten and squeezed out.
We are going to need multiple creative responses at the individual communal and systemic levels to meet this housing crisis we are in and I believe that this is a key response that other faith communities can contribute to meeting this crisis.
As we embark on building these homes, I offer this prayer of blessing today:
To you God who made your home with us as humans, give us wisdom and patience in fostering this community of residents in such a way that this housing will become a stable home for all who live there.
To you God who calls us to seek a more just world, we ask that you give us eyes to see your vision for a society where everyone has a place to call home. May this project be a catalyst for other faith communities to use their land assets to create homes for the many people in need of housing in this city.
To you God who has a special love for the poor, we pray you would enlarge our imaginations and give us courage to create policies in our city, province and nation that treat housing as a basic human right rather than a mere commodity, so that every person might find a home, for good.
In the name of the one who embodied your welcome of the poor, in the name of Jesus, amen.
Co:Here organizers point out that 18 to 20 units will be for residents (people who are homeless or are at risk of homelessness) and six to eight for co-residents (people from the church community who have experience developing relationships with vulnerable people).
They describe the purpose of the project in this way:
To facilitate a sense of community, equality, mutual care and companionship, the building includes 2,335 square feet of community space (kitchen, living room, dining room and meditation/and quiet room); 2,690 square feet of outdoor space for urban agriculture; and 340 square feet of office space for its care-centred staff and organizational partners. Of particular importance is the arrangement of self-contained apartments around ‘pods’ of shared space on the second, third and fourth floors.
The tenant makeup reflects the unique commitments of this approach to housing, ensuring the mutual care and transformation of all involved in this diverse gathering of individuals and families.