Late last week, three levels of government came together for a Zoom announcement that will see a former Dartmouth hotel turned into 65 supportive housing units. “I don’t want to be the mayor of the city where people don't have a place to live,” said HRM mayor Mike Savage, who spoke during the Thursday call along with provincial minister of community services Karla MacFarlane and federal housing minister Ahmed Hussen.
The announcement itself was made by Dartmouth-Cole Harbour MP Darren Fisher. “Safe housing shouldn’t be a luxury,” Fisher said. “Having sanctuary, a safe place to call home, is a baseline for stability, for security.”
The Travelodge Suites at 101 Yorkshire Avenue, not far from the MacKay Bridge toll plaza, was open as recently as October 2021 according to online reviews, but will soon be dubbed The Overlook. Of the 65 units, 60 will be permanent supportive housing and five will be respite care units for people experiencing homelessness.
This follows two other housing announcements or developments in Dartmouth so far in the new year. The Alderney Drive modular units were finally completed and ready for move-in on Jan 16, and last week the feds and the province again teamed up with the city to announce a new affordable housing development. All these projects will cater to different groups—the affordable housing for mid-to-low-income people, the modular units for those already experiencing homelessness, and this supportive housing for people who need extra, built-in support like those struggling with addiction or mental health, or medical care while experiencing homelessness.
This newest project will be in partnership with the North End Community Health Centre. NECHC executive director Marie France Leblanc said the new housing would have “24/7 wraparound support for those with complex needs, based on harm reduction.”
Originally, the idea came from MOSH—the NECHC’s Mobile Outreach Street Health team—and its founder Patti Melanson, who passed away in 2018. “She always advocated for a place that put harm reduction principles first, a place where housing was a right and the supports were in place to keep it that way,” said Leblanc. “Today we launch The Overlook in her memory.”
The building itself will contain not just residences but also a pharmacy, library and cafe. There will be nurses, addictions specialists and even a “death doula” to help with end-of-life planning.
“This marks the culmination of a couple of years of work with all our partners,” said Leblanc. “In particular the affordable housing Association of Nova Scotia, the department of community services, CMHC and the city through the Rapid Housing Initiative.”
The timeline of the project is “as soon as possible” according to mayor Savage, but it’s unclear what renovations—if any—the building itself needs: “It's not really fair to say it's behind schedule because there's a lot of work being done and people are working as quickly as they possibly can.”
The province is putting $3.5 million into the building purchase and promising $1.5 million a year for ongoing services. It’s unclear which level of government will own the building once purchased, but the Rapid Housing Initiative indicates it will remain open for at least 20 years. Another $6.5 million in funding will come from the Rapid Housing Initiative Project, the constraints of which indicate it must be completed within one year of announcement.