The City of Kingston is renovating the east wing of the property at 805 Ridley Drive, constructing self-contained apartments for women with and without children, with Dawn House as the operator.
The City purchased the property in October 2020 for $2.24-million, and it has been used for COVID-19-related purposes and shelter support (the site is that of the former Fairfield Manor West location). The City then applied to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) for capital funds to renovate the east wing of the building, and received up to $3.5-million as part of the Rapid Housing Initiative.
“With the growing number of homeless women in Kingston, exacerbated by the pandemic and exorbitant rental costs, the need for more affordable, supportive, and transitional housing has never been greater. At its March 1st meeting, City Council voted in favour of a recommendation that named Dawn House as the Operator of the new transitional housing for women planned for the East Wing of 805 Ridley Drive,” a press release from Dawn House regarding the project stated.
“We are very excited about this partnership with Dawn House,” said Bruce Davis, Housing and Homelessness Project Manager for the City of Kingston. “They have a long tradition of supporting vulnerable women in Kingston. This will be quality, safe, affordable housing that will support women to transition to more permanent housing,”
Davis pointed out that this housing project is not a shelter, but consists of self-contained apartments that will provide affordable housing to those in need. The women at the Ridley Drive location will pay $390 (if they are on Ontario Works) or $497 (if they are on the Ontario Disability Support Program) per month, or up to 30 per cent of their gross income, for a studio or one-bedroom unit.
He explained that the City will provide operating funding through occupancy subsidies to keep the units affordable. The City has also committed $65,000 per year for the first two years for Dawn House to provide some staffing on-site.
“This project is truly a federal-provincial-municipal-community partnership to create net new transitional housing,” Davis added.
Dawn House is raising funds for the new residences to buy required items before opening, such as appliances, computers, printers, office equipment, furniture, security systems, fencing, storage units to keep donated items in, and a phone system.
The targeted occupancy for the 12 new units is expected in November this year, according to the City. The City of Kingston and Dawn House are also working together on plans to turn the west wing of the building into more housing units, and they will report to the City Council on that in the coming months.
Maggie McLaren, Executive Director at Dawn House, explained that, while the rent would be affordable at this new transitional housing, it would not be enough to cover operating costs like utilities, heat, pest control, fire and security monitoring, etc., nor to cover on-site support, all of which are critical for and during women recovering and becoming stably housed.
“We see this location as the second step in their goal towards self-sufficiency and becoming stably housed long-term,” said McLaren.
“Women’s homelessness in Kingston has reached an all-time high. We don’t know how many women are homeless in Kingston, but I would hazard a guess that it is far more than a hundred. We recognize that this project is not going to make a huge dent in those numbers, but it is a step in the right direction,” she added.
McLaren also shared the need for staffing at the new location, which is still under review. The women living at the current location of Dawn House, who have acquired some stability, do not require full-time daily support; however, living in a transitional home, they still need help to become fully independent. Once the new location opens, the expectation is to have staff present part-time rather than on a 24/7 basis, depending on available funding.
Dawn House Women’s Shelter was founded in 1986 in response to a housing crisis in the City of Kingston. It is a non-profit charitable organization providing a 24-hour crisis line, emergency shelter support, and resources for women over 16 with or without children.
The ‘Ridley House project’ is part of the City’s 10-year Housing and Homelessness Plan and the Community Well-Being Plan, the City of Kingston relayed. The City also recently launched a similar Indigenous housing project at 113 Lower Union Street with Tipi Moza, which is currently operational. Several other housing projects currently being considered will provide high-quality, safe, affordable housing across the city, the City of Kingston said.
For more information on Dawn House, or to find ways to offer support to this project, visit DawnHouse.ca.