Guildford’s new Baird Blackstone Building supportive housing project is named for William Baird Blackstone (inset photo), who died last January. Managed by Lookout Housing and Health Society, the building includes 61 studio units for people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness. (Building photo: Tom Zillich)

Guildford’s new Baird Blackstone Building supportive housing project is named for William Baird Blackstone (inset photo), who died last January. Managed by Lookout Housing and Health Society, the building includes 61 studio units for people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness. (Building photo: Tom Zillich)

Surrey ‘in dire need’ of more supportive housing units like those in new Blackstone building

Guildford-area structure to house those experiencing homelessness

The doors of Surrey’s newest supportive housing building are now open, and not a moment too soon.

So say operators of the 61-unit Baird Blackstone Building, built on a vacant lot at 14706 104th Ave. and managed by Lookout Housing and Health Society.

The five-storey structure will house those experiencing, or at-risk of, homelessness, and all units were spoken for before tenants began moving in this week.

“It’s no secret in Surrey that we’re definitely in dire need of this type of housing,” said Shayne Williams, CEO of Lookout.

“The current mayor and council has done a good job of bringing in three (supportive housing) buildings online just this year, but we have a long way to go,” Williams added. “I’d say we’re several hundred (units) away from what we truly need in Surrey.”

Named for William Baird Blackstone, the building is part of a joint initiative of the B.C. government and City of Surrey to construct 250 permanent supportive modular homes to replace temporary sites in the city. Two other supportive housing projects, The Nest and Peterson Place, have opened, adding 139 such units in Surrey.

• RELATED STORY, from 2019: Surrey ‘on track’ for getting permanent supportive housing sites.

For the Blackstone project, the province chipped in $16 million through its Homelessness Action Plan, along with an annual operating subsidy of $1.1 million, and the city provided the land, valued at around $1.3 million.

Williams said Blackstone, who died last January after a battle with cancer, was a key figure with Lookout for many years, as a board member and also on the planning committee for the building that now carries his name.

“He was a tireless social-justice advocate and for housing, a real champion for vulnerable people in Surrey,” Williams said.

“(Blackstone) contributed a lot of his own time and efforts to get this project done and make sure we got a good product,” he added. “We’re very proud of this building, and Baird had a lot do to with that. We’re just so grateful to the family as well, to allow us to add his name to the building like this. His death was such a loss to us.”

CLICK HERE to read Blackstone’s obituary on arbormemorial.ca.

Lookout also manages a year-round shelter next door to the Blackstone building, which backs onto Hjorth Road Park and is built next to a Real Canadian Superstore.

Blackstone’s studio units include private washroom and kitchenette, and the building has a commercial kitchen, dining and lounge areas, storage, laundry and medical rooms.

“This housing will offer an opportunity for tenants to transition to building stability and improve their quality of life,” Williams said in a news release. “We thank our partners from BC Housing and the City of Surrey for their leadership in making this much-needed supportive housing possible.”

The project in Guildford “will give vulnerable people the supports they need to get back on their feet, ensuring our community is safer and healthier,” stated Garry Begg, MLA for Surrey-Guildford. “Our government will continue to build homes like these in Surrey and across the province so that people experiencing homelessness can have a roof over their head and a place to call home.”

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum says this past year “has illustrated that during uncertain times the need to have a safe place to call home has never been greater,” he said in a news release. “Unfortunately, there are still many people who do not have a roof over their head. By providing housing and vital supportive services for Surrey’s most vulnerable, (the Blackstone opening) is another step in the right direction. Through our continued partnership with the Province of B.C., we are rapidly adding much-needed supportive housing and removing the largest barrier that prevents vulnerable citizens from getting back on their feet.”



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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