Staff and residents of Margaret Mitchell Place – the temporary modular housing on Ash and West 6th Avenue – felt welcomed with open arms by the community, and that welcome still resounds today. 

This was the message delegates to the False Creek South Neighbourhood Association heard from Byron Slack, outgoing manager of Margaret Mitchell Place (MMP) and Duncan Higgon, Senior Manager of Housing for the Portland Housing Society (PHS), which operates MMP. The two men had been asked to brief delegates on the first 18 months of operation of MMP.  

Initially, some 52 homeless individuals moved into the newly opened facility, including a 24-year old who had been homeless since age 14. Delegates were told of the role played by the FCSNA working group in introducing and helping to build support for the program in False Creek South. They noted that welcoming gifts from the community included a potted plant for each room accompanied by a note from a False Creek Elementary School child. 

Byron and Duncan recapped that Temporary Modular Housing (TMP) is a form of supported housing providing 24-hour support. The program empowers residents and makes them feel valued, in some cases for the first time in their lives. It works toward stabilizing residents in a safe environment, allowing them to begin to connect with services available either inside the building or in the community. 

A number of residents work as part of the PHS “clean teams”, providing dignified clean-up work in the neighbourhood surrounding MMP. As well some residents have now connected to the Sole Food Street Farm, also operated by PHS, that is located further east along West 1st  Avenue. While MMP’s first year sadly saw the passing of several older men, delegates were told that these men were not well upon move-in, and that they died with dignity and with care they would not have received if still living on the street. 

The presentation was followed by a short Q&A. One delegate asked about the temporary nature of the building and its location on the Canada Line Station parking lot. Duncan explained that PHS has a five-year zoning lease from the City of Vancouver that can be extended for another five years, but that these temporary modular buildings are fully seismically engineered and designed to be moved to another location. 

Another delegate noted that the Community Planning group within RePlan is working on a HUB proposal for a replacement of the Broadway Lodge and other housing types, including a potential permanent replacement building for MMP.  Duncan replied that in the case of new development, current residents should be given the right of first offer in the new building.

In answer to a question on the mix of residents, Byron said that within one group – formerly homeless seniors with addiction challenges – some have already stabilized and moved on to more conventional forms of assisted housing. Residents are assisted in their transition by services and programs available from BC Housing and other agencies.  

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– Jim and Kathryn Woodward