New transitional house for women in Saint John gets $3.6 million in funding

September 13, 2022

Over $3.6 million in funding has been announced for a new 12-unit transitional house for women experiencing homelessness in Saint John.

Rose House, a three-storey apartment complex at the corner of Brunswick and Middle Street in Waterloo Village, has been rapidly taking shape over the past several weeks.

Walls started going up last week. The floors are almost complete.

When finished in fall 2022, the units will include “everything that the women need” to be self-sufficient as they move from homelessness to a healthy, independent life, according to Mary Saulnier-Taylor, executive director of the Coverdale Centre for Women, which has been serving and providing services for vulnerable women and children in the community since 1975.

Rose House, nearing completion on the corner of Brunswick Street and Middle Street in Saint John’s Waterloo Village neighbourhood, is within walking distance of the Social Enterprise Hub, groceries and other key amenities. (Julia Wright/CBC)

Each unit will contain its own washer and dryer, stove, fridge, microwave, and basic patio furniture “so that they have some outdoor living space,” Saulnier said, in addition to a shared garden where women can grow their own flowers and vegetables.

“The project will provide wraparound supports that will help the residents build the life they deserve,” said Saint John – Rothesay MP Wayne Long.

“These new housing units will be an important part of our community.”

A rendering by architect Bob Boyce shows what Rose House will look like when complete. Each unit will come fully furnished and include its own outdoor patio space. (Julia Wright/CBC)

A peer mentor will live on site to assist women with their day-to-day needs.

Saint Johner Jessica Lang, 34, is one of the women hoping to transition out of Coverdale into her own apartment. She moved to the centre in November after ending a relationship, and since then has benefited from programs on healthy eating, self-esteem, and other life skills.

The staff have “worked with me from November all the way till now,” she said. “They’ve been through this hard journey with me.”

Lang, pictured with Coverdale Centre for Women program facilitator Chanelle Morgan, and EA of finance Erin Kinney. The staff of the centre have ‘been through this hard journey with me,’ Lang said. (Julia Wright /CBC)

Lang, who has been on the waiting list for housing for three years, said she’s looking forward to getting her kids back at least some of the time — she lost custody of them in the split — “and maybe back into an apartment and normal life again.”

At Monday’s funding announcement, Land said she was “overwhelmed with joy” to see it going ahead.

“It’s a good project.”

Walls have started coming up at Rose House over the past few weeks. Brad Vail with Iron Maple Constructors Inc., which is working to build the project, says the modular style of build saves time on the schedule. (Julia Wright / CBC)

There are about 70 women in Saint John currently experiencing homelessness, according to the By Names List, or BNL — a list used by various organizations to prioritize those with the greatest need for housing, and “that’s only one source,” Saulnier said.

The real number is likely much higher.

“We know there’s more to be done. It doesn’t stop here,” said Social Development Minister Dorothy Shephard. “We are going to partner with as many private developers and non-profits as we can to try to close this housing gap that’s so desperately needed.”

Project almost didn’t go ahead

For a few weeks in March 2022, it appeared that Rose House might not happen as planned.

Escalating costs of building materials resulted in a $400,000 funding shortfall. Coverdale was given until mid-March to prove it could cover the shortfall, or federal and provincial government grants would be rescinded before the project could break ground.

Thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign, and a $400,000 grant announced today from the Saint John Regional Development Corporation, the project was saved. In addition, the federal Rapid Housing Initiative will contribute $1.4 million, and the provincial Department of Social Development $480,000, plus 12 rent supplements for 20 years equalling $1.4 million.

Rose House is just the beginning, said Coverdale Centre for Women executive director Mary Saulnier-Taylor. ‘We have diverse populations with different needs, whether it’s aging needs, or mental health needs, or substance use, or even domestic violence.’ (Julia Wright/CBC)

The goal is to complete the project before the end of this fall — and then start determining who the first tenants will be.

“We have women so excited and  it’s really hard,” said Saulnier-Taylor. “All my women want to move into this unit, but it won’t meet the needs of all my women.

Unfortunately, we need so much more inclusive, different types of housing, because we have diverse populations with different needs, whether it’s aging needs, or mental health needs, or substance use or even domestic violence.”

First tenants by winter

For the time being — the project is moving ahead on schedule, said project manager and professional technologist Brad Vail with Iron Maple Constructors Ltd., which is working on the build.

“We’ve got everything scheduled, in place, and ready to get this project done at the latest by the end of November,” Vails said.

Project manager and professional technologist Brad Vail says over the next couple months, Saint Johners will see windows, siding, roofing being installed at Rose House. (Julia Wright / CBC)

Finishing the project before the snow flies is a win, according to Saulnier-Taylor.

“We’re just looking forward to 12 less women on the streets this winter,,”

Jessica Lang just wants to know when she can apply to live in Rose House. She said there are a lot of things she’s looking forward to doing again with her kids, in her own place.

“I can’t wait to actually hang clothes up,” Lang said. “And do dishes.”