Sod turned on affordable housing project

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Perhaps nothing exemplified Steinbach Community Outreach’s dedication to spending money carefully on helping those in the community that need a leg up, more than a golden shovel.

SCO and invited guests took part in the sod turning for The Bridge last Thursday, an affordable housing project which will provide low rent housing to low income individuals living in Steinbach.

At centre stage was a golden shovel, but not one the board spent any money on.

GREG VANDERMEULEN / THE CARILLON Steinbach Mayor Earl Funk speaks at the sod turning for The Bridge.

Instead, office manager Charlene Kroeker said they relied on a borrowed shovel.

Board member Ingrid Penner had one at home, left over from the sod turning on Steinbach Credit Union’s new building.

“We’d rather spend money on the people than golden shovels,” Kroeker said with a chuckle.

It’s that thrift in part that has generated community support for The Bridge, an apartment building to be constructed on Woodhaven Avenue that will have 24 suites in a combination of bachelor and one bedroom sizes.

A grant of $1.338 million from the province was designated by the City of Steinbach after reviewing several proposals.

GREG VANDERMEULEN THE CARILLON Steinbach Community Outreach board chair Elroy Peters speaks the sod turning for The Bridge.

Kroeker said they’ve been happy with the community response.

“It’s been fantastic,” she said. “We have raised over $1 million now from community members and businesses who have donated to the project.”

Total project cost estimated earlier this year was $3.6 million, with Steinbach Credit Union financing the remainder.

SCO Executive Director Irene Kroeker said when they first began operating in 2008, opening the doors to their new drop-in centre, they could never have anticipated what was coming.

“It was only a 200 sq. ft. corner of our church and we thought we had the answer to our dream, to be there for the community that struggled with their basic needs,” she said.

GREG VANDERMEULEN THE CARILLON Steinbach Community Outreach Executive Director Irene Kroeker shares a few words with Steinbach MLA Kelvin Goertzen.

They added clothing and food and moved upstairs to a 7,000 sq. ft. space but then realized they had another important need to meet, shelter.

That resulted in a three tiered plan which called for emergency overnight shelter, transitional apartments and affordable housing apartments.

Kroeker described the sod turning as a “dream come true”.

“Today our dream has grown to a three-storey affordable apartment,” she said. “Honestly I never thought the day would come, but here we are.”

Board Chair Elroy Peters said SCO has the goal of increasing the supply of affordable units, improving and preserving the quality of affordable housing and fostering safe independent living with supports provided by SCO.

GREG VANDERMEULEN THE CARILLON Steinbach Community Outreach Executive Director Irene Kroeker.

“Our plan is to create a support network for individuals living in The Bridge so they may one day be able to move on from this complex and find housing on their own,” he said.

Steinbach MLA Kelvin Goertzen also spoke about the importance of this project, sharing a time of his life when his father passed away and his mother, raising two children alone, needed assistance.

“To say that my mom at that point didn’t have much would have been generous,” he said. “She didn’t have anything.”

She was able to take advantage of government housing near Steinbach’s water tower, and Goertzen said it’s important to recognize she had help from government, the community and the people around her.

“We all accomplish things with help,” he said.

GREG VANDERMEULEN THE CARILLON Steinbach MLA Kelvin Goertzen.

Steinbach Mayor Earl Funk said he’s pleased council chose this proposal to support.

“Your fingers are on the pulse of what’s going on in our community with the homeless, with the working poor, and those that will benefit from this type of housing,” he said.

Provencher MP Ted Falk described SCO Executive Director Irene Kroeker as a “visionary”, comparing SCO to the Biblical book of Nehemiah which tells the story of the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls while defenders stood in the gaps to repel enemies.

“God was looking for somebody to stand in the gap,” he said of the Old Testament story. “Irene, you saw that gap in our community of people dealing with homelessness and fighting poverty and you chose to address that gap.”

Completion of the facility is expected for fall of 2023.

GREG VANDERMEULEN THE CARILLON Steinbach Mayor Earl Funk, Steinbach MLA Kelvin Goertzen, SCO board chair Elroy Peters, SCO Executive Director Irene Kroeker and Provencher MP Ted Falk make the dirt fly as they take part in the sod turning for The Bridge, an affordable housing project.
GREG VANDERMEULEN THE CARILLON Steinbach Mayor Earl Funk, Steinbach MLA Kelvin Goertzen, SCO board chair Elroy Peters, SCO Executive Director Irene Kroeker and Provencher MP Ted Falk take part in the sod turning for The Bridge, an affordable housing project.
GREG VANDERMEULEN THE CARILLON Provencher MP Ted Falk taking part in the sod turning for The Bridge in Steinbach.
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