A new apartment building for some of Winnipeg's most vulnerable residents will open downtown next summer.
In July 2014, the six-storey, 40-unit Marie Rose Place will welcome refugee and immigrant single moms and their children.
The $9-million project includes federal and city contributions of $990,000 each, with the province and developer Hargrave Holdings each putting up $2 million. The developer is taking out a mortgage for the rest.
It will be run by Holy Names House of Peace, which is next door, and will offer support programs and services to residents regardless of their religious affiliation or cultural origin.
"I feel like today is a new page in the book of my life," Asel Diusheeva said at a sod-turning ceremony Thursday in front of the Edmonton Street construction site.
'I feel like today is a new page in the book of my life'
"I came to Canada with hope my daughter and I have a good future," said Diusheeva, who arrived in June from Kyrgyzstan. She plans to send for her 13-year-old daughter, who is staying in Kyrgyzstan with her grandmother, as soon as she finds work and a place for them to live.
But up until now, all she could afford in Winnipeg was a room in a "cheap hotel" and her plan to create a new home for her and her daughter seemed hopeless.
"I didn't feel safe," Diusheeva said.
She heard about the House of Peace and contacted Sister Lesley Sacouman, the group's executive director, who welcomed her to the transitional housing facility on Edmonton, which will have permanent housing with 40 two-bedroom apartments next door next summer.
Holy Names House of Peace supports newcomer women who are in transition.
"As a single woman and a single mother in a new country, it gives me hope that one day my daughter will be here," Diusheeva said.
She's the kind of person developer Bob Dick was thinking of when he read a Manitoba government housing report in 2010 mentioning the 120 refugee and immigrant women who arrive in Winnipeg every year alone, pregnant or with children but no local family or friends.
"I was wondering what happens to these 120 people a year?" said Dick, president of Hargrave Holdings Ltd. "Where do they go? Where do they live?"
Dick, the son of immigrants, was concerned for the well-being of these women in a new country and a new city with a vacancy rate below one per cent. He approached Sister Sacouman and plans for the apartment complex next door to House of Peace started to take shape.
Marie Rose Place is breaking new ground in Manitoba as the first women-only apartment block for newcomers, said Dick.
"There's not another place like this."
It will be named for Marie Rose Durocher, who founded the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary in 1843 in Quebec.
She opened schools for young women -- especially newcomers and women who were abandoned or marginalized.
In Winnipeg Thursday, Sacouman saluted the courage and resilience of women uprooted from everything and everyone familiar to them when they move to a new country.
"Our pioneer newcomer women have left all and dared to hope against hope," she told the crowd gathered on Edmonton Street, including representatives of all three levels of government.
"I'm proud to be a woman here supporting other women," said Shelly Glover, St. Boniface MP and parliamentary secretary to the minister of finance. "This is our home to share with newcomers who need a family."
The rent-geared-to-income housing will help women adjust to their adopted country and flourish here, said Manitoba Housing and Community Development Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross.
Jenny Gerbasi, the city councillor for the area, said it welcomes and needs them.
"It's great to have more downtown residents," said Gerbasi (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry). "It will become more of a neighbourhood as we have more people living here."
The 38,000-square-foot complex is designed by Mistecture Architecture + Interiors Inc.