Dwayne's Home operator worried about future with building up for sale

The future of Dwayne’s Home is in question now that its building is up for sale.

The former hostel at 102 Street and 100 Avenue was turned into a transitional housing facility in 2013.

They have space for about 130 adult residents in 68 rooms and cater to those who otherwise would be sleeping rough.

According to recent numbers from the city, about 1,900 people are experiencing homelessness in Edmonton, with nearly 500 identified as unsheltered.

Facility manager Brad Kamal said they haven’t spoken with the company that owns the building but their lease recently ended and a “for sale” sign was posted outside the building on Sunday.

The company website describes Dwayne’s Housing as a grassroots company with a social mandate to abolish homelessness. It says the group uses an innovative and flexible approach to provide quality affordable housing.

Dwayne’s Home facility manager Brad Kamal hopes to continue the work they do even if their current building is sold. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Kamal worries the people they house could end up back on the street, leaving them without an address.

“That’s the basis for life,” Kamal said. “You have to have an address in order to get your essential services whether it’s welfare or [Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped] AISH — everything else. So they need an address.”

He called the homeless situation in the city a crisis.

Residents are fed three times a day and staff ensure they have access to required medication.

He said they are a for-profit group, but they are operating on a “shoestring budget.”

“We have to get involved,” Kamal said. “We have to cut costs. Whether it’s serving food, whether it’s cooking, whether it’s cleaning, home care … whatever it is we have to do we do.”

The space also hosts group meetings for those struggling with addiction, which are open to residents and the public.

Dwayne’s Home residents can often be seen roaming outside facility, leaving some neighbours, such as Kristin Raworth, feeling uneasy.

“For me and for a lot of people who live in my building, it makes it difficult to want to go out at night. It makes it difficult to go out period,” Raworth said. “You do get concerned because whatever they’re on, it makes them extremely aggressive. So it’s kind of trying to balance those two things in terms of our safety but also wanting to ensure the people who live there are taken care of.”

Kristin Raworth lives in the apartment next to Dwayne’s Home and hopes the current residents are able to get the supports they need as they cope with mental health and addictions issues. She says she has felt unsafe at times, as residents tend to linger around the area. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Raworth said she regularly hears yelling and fighting around the area and hopes that a harm reduction strategy should be the end goal for those operating the facility.

She also thinks the city and province may need to be involved to ensure that residents are able to access the supports they need.

“The province created the 10-year plan to end homelessness in 2007,” Raworth said. “Unfortunately, we haven’t got there yet, but we also haven’t paid a lot of attention to that plan over the last couple years as a province. So, it’s refocusing on to that. It’s re-focusing into our communities.”

She wants to see more support for affordable housing and wrap around services for those struggling to maintain housing due to mental health and addictions issues.

Operations will continue as normal at Dwayne’s Home until the building is sold and the new owner decides what they will do with the property.

The company handling the sale of the building did not return a CBC News request for comment Saturday afternoon. 

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