From homeless to home at Naomi Place

January 11, 2021

"I love all you guys! This is the best birthday ever!”  Dance Randy, about moving to Naomi Place

several bags full of items for residents

Nestled near Vancouver’s Trout Lake and Nanaimo Skytrain Station at 3598 Copley Street, is a new, modular three-level housing project with a modern look. Opened in March 2020, Naomi Place is a white building, splashed with black and bright, yellow features. An outdoor courtyard with a covered picnic table welcomes residents outside year-round. Raised community garden beds line the cedar-colour stained fence.

Naomi Place is a supportive housing building. People living here used to be homeless.

“A lot of our new residents may not have slept in a real bed in years, months. A bed of their own is much appreciated by our residents when they move in,” explained Julie Roberts, Executive Director, Community Builders Group. The non-profit organization is an experienced housing operator and manager of Naomi Place.

Julie and the Community Builders Group team provide support services to residents.

These include meal services, cooking lessons, life and employment skills training and volunteer work. If needed, residents are connected to community-based services and programs like medical care, mental health care and substance-use services.

Inside are 58 self-contained, studio homes.

Naomi Place provides affordable, permanent, subsidized housing for up to 58 single adults and seniors. Each self-contained unit includes a washroom, kitchen, living area and bed. Six of the units are accessible, built for people that use mobility aids like wheelchairs or walkers.  Residents pay rent to live here.

People living at Naomi Place are referred from BC Housing’s Supportive Housing Registry. Priority is given to applicants experiencing homelessness from the surrounding area. Local outreach teams, including staff from Community Builders Group, made sure local people without homes were included in the application process.

Man sitting in electric scooter carrying a bag

David, a senior, moved to Naomi Place from a local shelter. Before that he lived in Vancouver’s Stanley Park for over 15 years.

He says he is, “happy, relieved, to finally have a home that feels safe and secure”.

Another senior, Doug, moved to Naomi Place after living in Hornby Shelter for over a year. Once he was able to get his Canadian Pension and disability income, after years without teeth, Doug got dentures. Then he moved to Naomi Place. Doug says he’s, “so happy to have my own place to finally call home. Now I can enjoy my golden years.”

Not everyone living at Naomi Place moved from a shelter.

Richard, also a senior, lived in Stanley Park off and on for over 20 years. He preferred not to live in shelters, choosing to be on his own. All that changed once he moved to Naomi Place. “It’s the happiest I’ve been in over 20 years. I’m over the moon to have my own bathroom.”

Amanda, another new resident, feels “safe” at Naomi Place, “look at the surroundings, the security. I feel safe here. I get to be independent. This is the best place I have been in for a long time.”

With neighbours and local school kids, Cedar Cottage Neighbourhood House welcomed residents to Naomi Place.

Recognizing many residents may not have kitchen and bath supplies, Cedar Cottage Neighbourhood House coordinated bright blue welcome packages for all new residents. Donations of soap, towels, chocolates and more were collected from the community. Each resident was given a new, blue bag of welcome filled with toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, toilet paper, kitchen towels and more.

artwork of fish , flower and blue sky

The local school chipped in too. “Elementary school students took a significant amount of time to write handwritten notes for each resident,” said Roberts. She holds up a brightly coloured welcome card decorated with stars.

Inside, the card reads: “Congratulations! May you find great happiness at your new place. All the best.”

The building is named in honour of housing advocate Naomi Seller’s brave, determined spirit.

Naomi was a peer advisor to housing staff and the Community Builders’ board. She worked tirelessly, sharing insights and advice during the 17 years she lived in Community Builders’ housing sites. Sadly, Naomi passed away in 2018 due to an overdose. She was a passionate advocate of overdose awareness and harm reduction education.

Working with partners makes housing like this possible.

Construction and operation costs are from the Province of BC, through BC Housing.  The land for Naomi Place was provided by the City of Vancouver.

Take a video tour inside Naomi Place