The federal and provincial governments announced more than $1 million in funding towards the completion of a new, nine-unit housing development for seniors at risk of homelessness that will be housed in the former Rosedale Public School on Chapple Avenue.
The new housing is part of a larger, $6.3 million project that’s being undertaken by the District of Sault Ste. Marie Social Services Administration Board (DSSMSSAB), which includes a community hub for local social services, a childcare centre, gymnasium and an EarlyON Child and Family Centre.
The affordable housing units are expected to be fully operational by January.
“New projects are very important. We know, after a post-COVID environment, that we need to make an investment in affordable housing,” said Ontario Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark told reporters following Thursday’s funding announcement. “So projects like this, that provide an opportunity to keep people safe and housed, [are] incredibly important.”
Sault Ste. Marie MP Terry Sheehan says he “loves the idea,” while quoting a recent study that showed 12 per cent of people in Sault Ste. Marie does not have access to proper housing.
“Homelessness and affordable housing knows no political stripe - it affects all people,” said Sault Ste. Marie MP Terry Sheehan. “Sometimes socioeconomic conditions dictate that, and during COVID-19, we saw how particularly important a wholeness of a safe place [is].”
Ward 2 Councillor and a social services board member Luke Dufour told SooToday that in terms of the bigger picture, the Rosedale renovation project will be an integrated hub of sorts, bringing together 65 new childcare spaces being run by Childcare Algoma, a gymnasium that will be a part of the community hub centre, and office space dedicated to Algoma Family Services and Ontario Works case managers.
“Under just our immediate governance umbrella, we have a lot of expertise to kind of mix and match and get a real ecosystem of a hub going - and with that collaboration that we have under our own umbrella, it really attracts other organizations, like Algoma Family Services, to want to come and join the effort and to work with us, because you’re able to have a common goal and vision, yet [with] one organization driving the bus and leading the way and controlling funding,” said Dufour. “It’s really the kind of project the DSSMSSAB could run, so I’m very proud that our DSSMSSAB here in Sault Ste. Marie has taken on the challenge - and I think it’s a real testament to the strength of our staff and the leadership being shown by our senior managers.”
Locally, social services have direct measurements for what the need is in the city through the Innovation Centre, which surveys Early Development Instrument (EDI) scores for children, which measure intellectual and social development.
It became clear to social services that a real need for support existed in the neighbourhood surrounding the former Rosedale Public School.
“We know that in this immediate neighbourhood, our EDI scores are lower than in other places, and it allows us to really drive targeted investments in that area because of that,” Dufour said.
The social services board anticipates that both the community hub and daycare centres will open in October.
“It really brings all of the major players together in a site that’s right in the heart of an area that is needed, and this is also going to allow us to measure the success of this intervention in the years to come, where hopefully we see a bump in those EDI scores as the innovation centre continues to track them,” Dufour said.
On Wednesday afternoon, both levels of goverment also announced that $2.9 million will be spent on 15 units of housing geared to Indigenous women and children in Sault Ste. Marie. The units will be be built at the former site of St. Bernadette Catholic School at 462 McNabb St.