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 Fraser Valley youth now have a place to call home, four days before Christmas

The first residents of The Switchback supportive housing for youth in Chilliwack moved in 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

Just Posted

Hundreds gathered at Surrey’s Holland Park Friday (June 11) in memory of the Muslim family killed in London, Ont. on Sunday (June 6). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Educating public ‘exhausting,’ says White Rock Muslim Association past president

Asad Syed says public needs to be more vocal in their condemnation

The City of White Rock turns 63 today. (file photo)
City of White Rock 2020 annual report available for review

Report to be discussed at June 28 council meeting

Dooris Raad was last seen in South Surrey’s Ocean Park neighbourhood on June 7. (Surrey RCMP photo)
Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of June 13

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read