Architect’s profile: Stability and connection for formerly homeless women

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Special to Ontario Construction News

Twenty-eight women experiencing homelessness will soon have access to a permanent home. The John Howard Society of Ottawa (JHS) is building a new supportive residence designed by award-winning architecture firm CSV Architects.

The four-storey residential building, funded through the Federal Government’s Rapid Housing Initiative, will provide housing for women, with a focus on Indigenous women. The Ottawa Aboriginal Community Advisory Board has been collaborating with JHS and advising on the development since March of last year.

“The residence will provide a comfortable, safe home for Indigenous women to live and thrive,” said CSV principal Jessie Smith.

Though each resident will have access to their own bachelor apartment, the design of the new building will focus on supportive functions and communal spaces. This includes a multi-purpose room, space for small group gatherings, a shared kitchen, and a rear yard for occupants to enjoy. Large planters will be installed outdoors so residents can grow their own vegetables and herbs. This will provide residents with an opportunity to take part in shared meals, celebrations, and group activities.

Through a partnership with Minwaashin Lodge, Indigenous elders and cultural workers will be invited to teach traditional ways of living and offer a variety of programming to help the women create a deeper connection to their roots. All women residing at the residence are welcome to join cultural programming groups regardless of their identity.

Though the level of support the women will require is expected to be low to moderate, JHS staff will be available around the clock. Using a client-centered and strengths-based approach, support staff will help residents increase their independent living skills, access higher education, seek employment or volunteer opportunities, and develop strong community relationships with their neighbours.

“This is a life changing opportunity. We’re playing a small role in changing the outcome for many of these women and that’s something we’re really proud of,” Smith said.

CSV Architects submitted this profile to Ontario Construction News.

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