The Canadian Mental Health Association says they have long term plans that include two new facilities for the city of Grande Prairie.
Their current facility, Willow Place, is located just on the edge of the downtown core. It is a 57 unit apartment building that provides housing to those coping with mental illness. Residents do need to be able to pay rent and are required to able to live “independently with support.”
The group is looking to provide more space for those in need. They are hoping to open a second facility in the next year or so. They told a city committee they currently own land next to Willow Place and are working to line up funding for another building there.
CMHA’s Financial Coordinator Pamela Foley says their mortgage is almost done so they are hoping to plan ahead but the city owns the land Willow Place is built on and that is creating some limitations.
“I think we’ve got less than three years left to pay on the building. So going into a new building we would like to own the land. [That will] give us a bigger asset base to leverage from.”
Foley says they are hoping the city will sign the land over to them. She also says they asked for a letter of support from the city.
“The city acknowledges there’s a need in the community and they support what we’re doing with trying to get an affordable housing build off the ground in Grande Prairie.”
CMHA’s Board Chair Angie Saltman also talked about the need. She says there are long waiting lists for these types of facilities in our area.
“[Willow Place] is full and it probably will remain full. We have a lot of long term tenants there. When I called the Grande Spirit Foundation they perpetually have a list of 500 people waiting in Grande Prairie to be able to get into affordable housing.”
Saltman says one of the keys to helping people with mental health issues is being able to provide a safe stable living situation.
Going forward the group says they have plans to be able to use the new facility and the land as leverage toward a larger facility in 10 to 15 years. That building would include commercial space on the main floor and living space on the floors above. The building would house all CMHA staff and include a commercial kitchen.
The building next to Willow Place has a budget up to $3 million and the larger facility has an estimated price tag of $13 million.
The city is looking at ways to work with the group on their requests.