KITCHENER -- A new affordable housing development in Brantford aims to help those who are currently homeless or living in poverty.

The building on Marlene Avenue, which has 30 studio apartments, is now officially open and the first tenants are moving in this week.

The city says that, in addition to providing emergency housing, tenants will also have access to “wrap-around” supports and assistance.

One of those organizations is Wesley Housing Services, a non-profit organization that provides services for people who are at risk of homelessness or are currently experiencing poverty. The city says it will have a permanent office space in the Marlene Avenue building. They’ll also provide 11 hours a day of counselling for mental health and addiction issues, and life skills training to assist tenants with finding employment.

One new tenant, who is not being identified to protect their privacy, says having a reliable place to stay will have a huge impact on their life.

“It has been really hard for me being homeless and feeling marginalized when looking for a place to rent. I know Marlene Avenue Apartments will improve my mental health just by knowing I have a safe place, I won’t feel judged. I will eat better and sleep better without wondering where my next meal is coming from. I want to reconnect with family and go back to school and get a degree in social work.”

“Moving into Marlene Avenue Apartments will help me stabilize my life,” says another. “I feel good and will be able to concentrate on my mental health now.”

The city says the tenants will also be giving back.

“If they are working, or able to gain some supports for employment for the future, they would pay about 30% of their gross income towards shelters,” says Maryellen MacLellen, the Director of Housing, Health and Human Services.

The city and the province’s ‘Homes for Good’ program will be covering the $5.6 million cost for the Marlene Avenue apartment building.

Brantford is also planning on building more affordable housing units.

Last October the city faced an unexpected surge in demand for emergency shelter services. To ensure they would have spots available during the winter months, the city opened a temporary shelter at 180 Greenwich St. Officials say that location has now closed and some people have been moved to the Marlene Avenue building, but they’re still working to increase the number of emergency shelter beds in conjunction with Rosewood House and the Salvation Army.

To meet increasing housing demands in the community, in October 2019, Brantford approved a plan to build 1,000 units over the next 10 years.

The city says proceeds from the sale of the Arrowdale golf course will help them meet the estimated $100 million cost for the project, along with tax revenues, “creative” financial planning, partnerships with non-profit housing sectors, as well as federal and provincial funding.

Through these efforts, the city says they’re hoping to create 470 units that are both affordable and sustainable.