Les Talvio and Alyssa Vlaanderen show off the superhero-themed room of one of the two-bedroom units at The Switchback, a supportive housing building for youth on Dec. 18, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Les Talvio and Alyssa Vlaanderen show off the superhero-themed room of one of the two-bedroom units at The Switchback, a supportive housing building for youth on Dec. 18, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Vulnerable Chilliwack youth now have a place to call home, four days before Christmas

The first residents of The Switchback supportive housing for youth move in on Monday

A handful of homeless youth in Chilliwack will have a place to call home just four days before Christmas.

The Switchback, a 16-unit supportive housing for people age 16 to 24, opened its doors to five youth and one toddler on Monday.

“The only requirement the youth have, to be here, is that they need a home,” said Les Talvio, executive director of Cyrus Centre.

The Switchback is a downtown housing project by Cyrus Centre that has been under construction for about six months. The building on Mellard Avenue was purchased in July by the City of Chilliwack and BC Housing, then completely gutted and renovated.

“This is the only youth housing project like this in the province,” Talvio said. “We’re really proud of Chilliwack… this wouldn’t have happened without the city believing in what we’re going to do and believing in these kids.”

READ MORE: New youth housing in Chilliwack comes with wrap-around supports

Step inside the two-storey building and hallway lights turn on using motion detectors revealing bright corridors and a “welcome home” sign.

It’s not the prettiest sign, but it’s Les Talvio’s favourite sign and the first one residents will see when they walk through the doors of The Switchback. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

It’s not the prettiest sign, but it’s Les Talvio’s favourite sign and the first one residents will see when they walk through the doors of The Switchback. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

There are eight one-bedroom units and eight two-bedroom units at The Switchback.

All units are move-in ready. They’ve been outfitted with everything from furniture to dishes, pots and pans to towels.

One of the two-bedroom units will soon be home to a young mom and her child. A bright-coloured superhero comforter, pillows and wall decorations fill one of the two bedrooms, while crisp, grey bedding lies atop the bed in the adjacent room.

There’s even 50-plus pieces of artwork that have been donated by four local Chilliwack artists to fill the walls of the units and the hallways.

Paige Van Klei is seen in the kitchen of one of the two-bedroom units at The Switchback, a supportive housing building for youth on Dec. 18, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Paige Van Klei is seen in the kitchen of one of the two-bedroom units at The Switchback, a supportive housing building for youth on Dec. 18, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Many of the residents who’ll be moving in will be coming out of situations of abuse, poverty, exploitation and drugs.

READ MORE: Launch of new supportive housing for homeless youth coming to downtown Chilliwack

“Right from day one, we’re going to be working with them on a plan that’s going to help them develop the skills and overcome the barriers they may currently be facing to be successfully independent in the community,” Talvio said.

There’s staff on site 24/7 working out of the resource room.

Residents will have access to youth health clinics, Pacific Community Resources Society, addiction services, trauma counsellors and Aboriginal mentorship programs. They’ll learn how to work on emotional regulation, physical health, spiritual health and conflict resolution. There’s one-on-one counselling as well as group programs including community meals, games nights, and skill-building activities.

“These kids are as diverse as the services they need and will receive,” Talvio said. “Chilliwack really sets an example – as far as the Fraser Valley goes – on how to get things done and how to collaborate and how to look after those most vulnerable.”

Staff will also help teach them skills like how to do laundry, how to enhance food hampers to create different meals, and how to look for jobs.

Alyssa Vlaanderen (left) and Paige Van Klei stand in the kitchen of one of the two-bedroom units at The Switchback, a supportive housing building for youth on Dec. 18, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Alyssa Vlaanderen (left) and Paige Van Klei stand in the kitchen of one of the two-bedroom units at The Switchback, a supportive housing building for youth on Dec. 18, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Talvio expects the average length of stay at The Switchback will be about two years, but no one will get kicked out at the age of 24 if they’re not yet ready to be on their own.

“We don’t want to be the cause of anyone being homeless. We want to be part of the solution,” he said.

While five of the units will be occupied as of Monday, the other 11 units will be filled over the coming weeks. Every resident is from Chilliwack and each is required to pay rent (typically $375 a person) which comes from the shelter portion of their income assistance pay.

“The nice thing is we are going to make an immediate impact, as small as it is, on youth homelessness in the community,” Talvio said.

The residents can come and go as they please, but they do need to be buzzed into the building by a staff member. All guests are pre-approved and screened.

Some of the youth moving in have already had a tour of their new homes.

Paige Van Klei empties out one of the ‘Bags of Love’ filled with a handmade quilt, toques, socks, art supplies and more at The Switchback, a supportive housing building for youth on Dec. 18, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Paige Van Klei empties out one of the ‘Bags of Love’ filled with a handmade quilt, toques, socks, art supplies and more at The Switchback, a supportive housing building for youth on Dec. 18, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

“They are very excited. It’s not what they imagine or what they pictured,” said Alyssa Vlaanderen, case manager for independent living. “They’re amazed it’s all brand new, it’s all right from the store and it’s all for them.”

Each unit is sponsored by either an individual, a business or a church who will be providing them with their first groceries to fill the fridge, cupboards and freezer. The sponsor will also be giving them a Christmas present and birthday present.

There are even ‘Bags of Love’ in each unit filled with a handmade quilt, toques, socks, art supplies and more.

“There is so much love that has gone into this, from the community and the staff,” Talvio said. “This building, and everything that’s gone into it, is what love looks like.”

Les Talvio stand outside The Switchback, a supportive housing building for youth on Dec. 18, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Les Talvio stand outside The Switchback, a supportive housing building for youth on Dec. 18, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)


 

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on?
Email: jenna.hauck@theprogress.com
Twitter: @PhotoJennalism

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

City of ChilliwackHousing and Homelessnesssupportive housing

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A worker is seen throwing a chicken in an undercover video in 2017 filmed by California-based animal rights activists Mercy For Animals.
Fraser Valley chicken abuse trial delayed until February

Originally scheduled for a jury trial, Sofina and Chilliwack company now face judge alone

Sheriff Avory Chapman was last seen Jan. 20 on Wellington Avenue in Chilliwack. (RCMP)
RCMP look for missing man last seen in downtown Chilliwack

21-year-old Sheriff Avory Chapman has been missing since Jan. 20

Chilliwack Law Courts. (Black Press file)
Man sentenced to 20 months for sexual interference in Mission

Will Laws Clark was 22 and victim was 13 at time offences began

Abbotsford youngster Hudson Poittris is hoping to raise money to provide students at his school friendship bracelets. (Submitted)
VIDEO: Abbotsford youth launches GoFundMe for friendship bracelets

Hudson Poittris, nine, hopes bracelets will increase inclusivity and kindness

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
COVID-19 outbreak declared over at Menno Home in Abbotsford

Long-term care home had 67 cases and 13 deaths since mid-November

Rose Sawka, 91, waves to her son through the window of a care home in Prince Rupert in October. Residents of the care home received their first vaccine dose Jan. 20. (K-J Millar/The Northern View)
B.C. care home visitor access to expand by March, Dix says

Staff, residents, essential visitors top priorities for vaccine

The Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO) is looking into the death of man discovered Jan. 11 in east Maple Ridge. (Black Press files)
B.C.’s police watchdog investigating man’s death in Maple Ridge

Man was found dead Jan. 11 after recent contact with police

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A Kelowna couple welcomed their Nooner baby in December. (Flytographer)
Kelowna couple welcomes baby girl from Hotel Zed Nooner campaign

Nicole and Alex will now have 18 years of free stays at the hotel

Kyrell Sopotyk was drafted by the Kamloops Blazers in 2016 and played two seasons with the Western Hockey League club. (Photograph By ALLEN DOUGLAS/KTW)
Kamloops Blazer paralyzed in snowboarding accident sparks fundraiser for family

As of Jan. 24, more than $68,000 had been raised to help Kamloops Blazers’ forward Kyrell Sopotyk

Most Read