My Place is restoring lives and building community in Vernon

November 10, 2020

Front view of 2600 35th Street in Vernon BC

My Place, a 56-unit supportive housing building in Vernon, opened in July 2019. Run by Turning Points Collaborative Society (TPCS), the new homes offer safe, secure housing for those experiencing homelessness.

Right away, formerly homeless community members settled in.

The secret of My Place’s success began in 2018. The staff started interviewing people living in the TPCS-operated bridge housing on 33rd Street. Working with future My Place residents helped the team learn about resident needs for their future homes.

“We asked our bridge housing clients questions about their physical health, mental health, survival and communication skill and more, to learn more about what kind of support they would need in their future homes,” said Shelley Kiefiuk, Site Manager for My Place. “By living together at 33rd Street, future My Place residents were able to form their own community before they even got here. The process really brought people together.”

Just a year since My Place opened, and the positive impacts to residents and the neighbourhood are clear.

A recent TPCS survey showed that 83 percent of residents and businesses are (now) familiar with the supportive housing concept. Another 96 percent state they “like the idea”. Seventy percent report that “the neighbourhood improved in the past year”. Ninety eight percent of local businesses said they would “support more supportive housing in the community.”

“You know, my life has changed completely,” says Stefanie, a My Place resident. "I think I was homeless for close to five years - I've done a complete turnaround. I really feel as though I would've been close to death if I hadn't moved into My Place. I found self-worth, which I never saw in myself before. I wouldn't be doing any of the positive things if I wasn't here. I feel positive about my future. I am grateful for everyone who showed me they cared and for not giving up on me when I wanted to give up on myself.”

"This beautiful building has people, life and excitement around it.” - Cindy Masters, talking about My Place in Vernon

Cindy Masters is the Executive Director of the Vernon and District Community Land Trust. The non-profit society operates Creekside Village, a seniors’ residence located next door to My Place.

“It’s brilliant,” says Masters of My Place. “People were apprehensive at first, but now, everyone is delighted and thinks the new housing is an asset to this part of town. My Place residents are friendly and care about the neighbourhood, and the crime rate has gone down. I think that’s because this beautiful building has people, life and excitement around it. And most important for us, residents of our building and theirs are becoming friends with each other. Some people had an idea in their head about what My Place would be - and they were proven wrong. Overall, the community is really excited about new supportive housing in Vernon.”

Shelley Kiefiuk believes the project has been a success due to community outreach and education.

“It’s really important to communicate with your neighbours and be responsive,” said Kiefiuk. Many people don’t know about supportive housing or understand what it is. We have open, honest conversations about what supportive housing is, what it looks like, what the intent is. When we have these kinds of conversations, what we hear back from the community is that we need more of this kind of housing. There are little things you can do to ensure you’re a good neighbour, and the key is good communication.”