The chair of New View Society says the opening of a new clubhouse and 10-bed residence for people with mental illness has been "magical" and he can't wait to welcome people to the community wellness centre at 2050 Mary Hill Rd.
Ted Kuntz said New View's metamorphosis from a single-purpose building to a multi-purpose facility where people can be together, share experiences, learn job skills and live independently has been bumpy but, ultimately, rewarding.
"It says what a caring community can do when it wants to," Kuntz said about the a $4.1-million community wellness centre and housing facility that opened recently on the former Lobb House site in Port Coquitlam.
New View Society quietly opened the doors to Iris House and a community wellness centre this summer after getting occupancy approvals, and, while there is still evidence of the recent move, staff say New View members and residents are settling in to the new digs.
"They feel that it is their home," said housing manager Louise Jolicoeur.
New resident Kim Materi moved into Iris House in August and said it was scary at first but now she enjoys her independence. She has her own key and can easily get into the duplex she shares with four other people because it's wheelchair accessible. The 31-year-old was living with her parents and is now learning how to cook and take care of herself.
"It's felt really good to get more freedom and independence," Materi said.
With the recent move, New View is finally able to consolidate programming for 300 clubhouse members who live in the Tri-Cities as well as provide offices for staff who manage New View's other residential apartments. Materi said having the clubhouse downstairs means she can easily get to programs using the elevator.
"I love being there, they are wonderful people," she said.
Darrell Roemer, New View's program manager, said it's a relief to finally have everything all in one location and noted that many new programs have been added, including job skills, computer courses, music nights, stop-smoking programs, drama and creative writing groups, and classes on graphic design and fitness to name a few.
"We have so many opportunities now because of the space," Roemer said.
Kuntz said his wish is to be able to invite the community to take part in wellness programs at the new centre and a new commercial kitchen may provide spin-off opportunities such as catering services.
"I want to see the mandate get larger," Kuntz said.
Building the new residential facility and clubhouse took several years; first, the 1912-era Lobb House, named after the former city councillor who built it, was torn down for safety reasons. Then the clubhouse was built below the residential facility to save money. At first, there was no carpeting in the basement until staff and members purchased it with their own money.
Fraser Health and New View fundraising have helped pay for some new furnishings and the new building has all the comforts of home, including an inviting fireplace and patio. Stained glass reclaimed from the Lobb House has also been included in the design.
"In some ways, it was magical how it all came to be," Kuntz said.
Iris House 1 provides independent living to five young adults with mental health issues; each has his or her own room and they all share a living room and kitchen. Iris House 2 offers more structured programming for five adults with mental health concerns and substance abuse issues. They have to have committed to taking responsibility for their recovery and both groups can stay at Iris House for 18 months to two years or longer if necessary.
Executive director Jill Calder said Iris House is the first in the Tri-Cities serving young people and adults with concurrent disorders and is a model for other communities trying to meet the needs of diverse groups. "We knew these areas are high need and we are happy to be providing it," Calder said.
The project as built with $1.6 million from BC Housing, $675,000 from the federal Homelessness Partnership Initiative and Fraser Health operating grants. New View provided the land.
For more information about New View, visit www.newviewsociety.org.
On Thursday, Nov. 10, New View will host a grand opening beginning at 1:30 p.m. and running until 7 p.m. There will be an opportunity for the public to view the common area in the duplex and the clubhouse, located at 2050 Mary Hill Rd. in Port Coquitlam.