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

Harrison Hot Springs Elementary students opened their new playground with smiles and play on Jan. 13, 2021. (Tammy Nazarchuk/Harrison Hot Springs Elementary)
Harrison students open new playground

The accessible installation includes musical instruments with the regular playground equipment

The Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve’s network of trails is popular with outdoor enthusiasts. (chilliwackblueheron.com photo)
Provincial funding goes to Chilliwack’s Great Blue Heron Reserve for trail upgrades

The popular destination saw even more traffic in 2020 as people headed outdoors during the pandemic

The 4th Annual Fraser Valley Marches for Women March is virtual this year, and this file shot depicts speeches from the first march from Jan. 20, 2018. (Jennifer Feinberg/Chilliwack Progress file)
Video on women’s march emphasizes that violence against women increasing

Key messages from Chilliwack women leaders as the FV Marches for Women March goes virtual

A screenshot from a local Instagram account video. The account appeared to be frequented by Mission students, and showed violent videos of students assaulting and bullying other students.
Parents, former students describe ‘culture of bullying’ in Mission schools

Nearly two dozen voices come forward speaking of abuse haunting the hallways

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Post-COVID-19 recovery clinic in Surrey, at Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre. (Photo: Fraser Health)
Surrey gets one of three post-COVID-19 recovery clinics

The Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre is located at 9750 140th Street

Competitors make their way through the course at the 2019 Canadian Cross Country Championships, which was hosted by Abbotsford in 2019. (File photo)
Abbotsford to host 2023 Canadian Cross Country Championships

Clearbrook Park last hosted the event in 2019, Ottawa hosting 2021 and 2022 races

Abbotsford Police officers investigate the scene after a pedestrian was struck and killed on Friday morning. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Male pedestrian, 37, killed in Abbotsford after being struck by vehicle

Collision took place in 31800 block of South Fraser Way on Friday morning

Police are searching for an alleged sex offender, Nicole Edwards, who they say has not returned to her Vancouver halfway house. (Police handout)
Police hunt for woman charged in ‘horrific’ assault who failed to return to Surrey halfway house

Call 911 immediately if you see alleged sex offender Nicole Edwards, police say

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

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

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Prince Edward Island’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. A lozenge plant in Prince Edward Island has laid off 30 workers, citing an “almost non-existent” cold and cough season amid COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Almost non-existent’ cold and cough season: P.E.I. lozenge plant lays off 30 workers

The apparent drop in winter colds across the country seems to have weakened demand for medicine and natural remedies

Most Read