It has been decided that the newest project to battle homelessness in Lloydminster shall be known as the Gibney House. The project is named after Dr. Eugene Gibney, who was one of the founders of the Lloydminster Action Coalition Society (LSACS), who are about to take possession of the property for use as a new men’s residence.
“We are in the midst of the final stages of negotiations with the city (Lloydminster) in terms of a contract,” said Reverend Michael Stonhouse, the head of (LSACS). He was due to meet with their lawyer to go over, “some of the nuts and bolts of it,” he said.
Written in legalese, LSACS will be getting a translation from the lawyer and there are a few things needed to be ironed out.
“It’s looking very good,” said Stonhouse. “From talking to the city, it looks like things might be finalized by the end of July.
“We’re hoping that at least in the next several weeks we can have a formal handing over of the keys, and a formal announcement about it.”
After being one of the organization’s founders, Gibney moved away for a little while before coming back home.
“He has agreed to let his name be used for this,” said Stonhouse. “Homelessness and affordable housing, helping people get a leg up were some of the things he really believed in, so he was quite happy to lend his name to this.
“The idea for this Gibney House will be a place for working men, men who have jobs, and are earning a living but haven’t been able to save enough money to rent their own places yet.”
These are the ones who haven’t yet gotten their lives on track for the long haul. These are the men who are in the early stages of getting their lives in order with the priority of having a job, and are moving into the second stage – finding suitable long term housing.
This is not an easy step to make considering what has happened in the rental market in the past year with rising rental rates. Calling the situation trying, is an understatement for some.
“In Lloydminster, even at the lower end of rentals, they (landlords) still expect one month’s rent and a damage deposit, and according to some sources, even two months rent and a damage deposit,” Stonhouse said. “How many people can afford that when they haven’t even got their first month’s paycheck?”
“(Gibney House is) looking at $450 per month, with the idea that the men can save enough money to afford their own places.
“It’s meant to be a short term thing to give people a leg up,” Stonhouse added, “People coming to town for a job wouldn’t even go the Men’s Shelter,” they would go straight to the Gibney House to get their room.
The men would be able to come and go as they please, having their own code to their own room so they could come and go as their job suits. Whereas at the Men’s Shelter you have to be out at 8 a.m. and you can’t check back in until 5 p.m, so having a night job won’t do.
This way you can adjust your coming and going to your own schedule.
“With the Men’s Shelter, they have meals provided for them, two meals a day and laundry, it really does not encourage independence,” said Stonhouse.
“It is quite easy for a person to get toughened to having everything done for them. Whereas at Gibney House, they will be fully independent, they will have to do their own laundry. They will have to do their own meals. They will be responsible for themselves.”
It is a good way for men to get back into the practice of looking after themselves, such as shopping, cooking, cleaning and living.
“The only difference between this and a normal apartment is what we will be charging in rent, which will be much more affordable,” said Stonhouse. “The trick is, we don’t want people to become dependant on this.”
Talking about the tremendous support they have received so far, “Atco Gas has volunteered to help, in terms of checking the gas system; Atco Electric has volunteered to check over our entire electrical system,” said Stonhouse.
“We have all sorts of people who have volunteered to help out with the renovation, so once we’ve got the keys, we’ll come up with a game plan – who does what when – and move ahead.”
Formerly, the Libbie Young Centre residence, which consisted of six individual units, whereas the new Gibney House will feature individual living quarters for eight working men.
“It could be a matter of a few weeks time,” said Stonhouse about when the keys might be turned over. “It could even be next week.”
In the meantime, LSACS has gone through the residence and they have a list of what needs to be done. Now it is a matter of coming up with a prioritized plan so the tradespeople can get the work done in the most efficient and timely manner.
The hope is that by the time fall is entrenched outside, LSACS will have set up shop inside a fully operational Gibney House.
Stonhouse said he hopes they can complete the renovations during the fair weather, before it turns too cold.
Looking back over the project, Stonhouse said, “In some ways it is only a drop in the bucket. Yes, we will have bedrooms and apartments for eight men,” who otherwise would not be accommodated. “In terms of the whole housing situation in Lloydminster, we need all sorts of people to step up.
“Whether it’s for the absolute homeless, the street people, whether it’s for women or families, whether it’s for seniors, or whether it is for the vast bulk of people who just can’t afford rent, we need people who can step up in a way for all those,” he said.
“The Lloydminster Social Action Coalition Society is doing their part, in terms of the Men’s Shelter, and now the Gibney House, but just doing those two things we are spread pretty thin.”
The next concern is housing for senior citizens.
“The possibilities are limitless,” explains Stonhouse when it comes to solutions to the housing situation.
The lack of land is impacting some organizations in Lloydminster from building, organizations who have the money to go forward, but no place to go.
There is lots of opportunity for partnerships with the city, private developers, and more, but Stonhouse adds, “We need to do it together.” Because the land is here, volunteers are here, the people to get the job done are here. All that is missing are the connections and partners needed to move ahead. Gibney House is just the start.