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November 30 2018

Diverse residents build intentional community

Co:Here aspires to be much more than an affordable housing project. It’s an intentional community carefully nurtured by residents who come from all walks of life and who choose to make it their home.

Operated by Salsbury Community Society, Co:Here stems from a Grandview Church housing initiative. It’s built on the church’s former parking lot, and the 26-unit building uses the community development approach to supportive housing.

Salsbury wants to break through social walls that divide classes. They do this by having people from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds live together as neighbours. Residents share the day-to-day patterns of life together, including cooking, celebrations and house-policy decision-making.

Linda is one of 34 residents who moved to Co:Here last February. She works part-time at Just Catering, a social enterprise that provides work for people with barriers to employment.

Her true passion is art. She loves to create abstract and colourful patterns on canvas. For the past 10 years, Linda has worked as a Teaching Assistant in a program at Vancouver Coastal Health Art Studios. The program uses art therapy to help people dealing with addictions or mental health challenges.  

Another resident, Mike, is a long-time member of the Burning Man community, and he proudly served at the festival as a Black Rock Ranger since 2005. Rangers safeguard the community and preserve its unique culture.

His career experiences were wide, from construction safety to business consulting. A passion for live-events production led Mike to hold various roles as a rigger and an audio visual and lighting technician.

In 2015, Mike experienced a life-altering stroke. It left him with severe speech challenges and the need to use a wheelchair. Since then, Mike’s journey to recovery has been difficult, moving from one residential care facility to another.

But at Co:Here, Mike found more than care and treatment — he found a community again. A sense of belonging. A tribe of people committed to mutual support and a shared stewardship of their building. Mike has been  at Co:Here since it opened, and today he gets regular visits  from old friends. Mike also uses Co:Here’s shared amenity space to host a weekly stroke recovery group.

Once a week, tenants come together to cook a meal in the shared kitchen. Everyone has a role to play in making sure dinner is delicious and on time.

This week’s meal is led by Co:Here resident Adam, a professional chef. Adam works at the Pacifica Treatment Centre for people with drug and alcohol addictions. Even with 30 people expected at tonight’s dinner, he isn’t fazed.

“I believe people living in communities like this is generally a good thing for society,” he says. “Everyone’s food and shelter essentials are met with this kind of housing model, and I love connecting with all the different characters and personalities here.”  

This project received funding from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and BC Housing through the 2014–2019 Canada–British Columbia Agreement for Investment in Affordable Housing.