City of Windsor officially unveils affordable youth housing project

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens; Ward 2 Councillor Fabio Costante; Jelena Payne, Commissioner, Human & Health Services; and Renée Thibert, President, Family Services Windsor-Essex Board of Directors unveiled the Youth Supportive Housing Demonstration Project at 251 Watkins Street in Windsor, Ont. on Monday, Dec. 6, 2021. (Source: Drew Dilkens)

The City of Windsor unveiled a new affordable housing project in the city’s west end on Monday which will house 10 at-risk youth in the six-unit apartment complex.

The Youth Supportive Housing Demonstration Project located at 251 Watkins Street will be operated in partnership with Family Services Windsor-Essex (FSWE).

“Family Services Windsor-Essex is very proud to lead the development of the Watkins supportive housing units with the City of Windsor,” FSWE board president Renee Thibert said in a news release. “This project is another step towards ensuring that no youth in the city experience homelessness. We recognize that housing alone is not enough to ensure our youth are successful. We appreciate the investments by City Council and the collaborative efforts of our community partners to ensure the appropriate supports are in place to enable them to thrive.”

A $840,000 grant from the Government of Ontario’s Investment in Affordable Housing fund will help support the $1,167,625 project.

The FSWE Youth Supportive Housing Demonstration Project is the first modular container housing to be built in the Windsor area with accessible and universal design components, the city says.

In partnership with @FamServWE & @ONGov, 251 Watkins Street will welcome 10 at-risk youth in 6 affordable units by the end of 2021. This $1.1M affordable housing project will be just one of the many contributions from @CityWindsorON thanks to the proposed 2022 City Budget.

— Drew Dilkens (@drewdilkens) December 6, 2021

The project will create a six-unit apartment complex to support 10 youth between the ages of 16-24 and will employ many of the principles of Housing First for Youth program.

“The solution to homelessness is a home, and we recognize that some individuals will require additional supports to continue to be successfully housed,” commissioner of human and health services Jelena Payne said. “Our partnership with Family Services Windsor-Essex for the Watkins project in particular provides at-risk youth a safe and supported place to live.”

The units have been built by NOW Housing and are equipped with access to the internet and computer controlled and monitored thermostats and will be accessible by an electronic card swipe.

The project is set for completion before the end of 2021, the city says.

The proposed 2022 city budget includes $112,000 in operating funding which will be needed to offer services for youth across multiple sites including the Watkins complex.

"There is a real need for greater access to housing in our community, and equally important in some cases to include housing with supports,” Ward 2 councillor Fabio Costante said. “This past year alone, millions have been spent to support existing shelters, upgrades to our current housing stock, and construction on new builds throughout our city. Although we still have a long way to go, we have made progress, and today is an example of that. I am proud of our partnership with Family Services Windsor-Essex and look forward to continuing this important work in our community."

The city says the largest expense included in the 2022 gross operating budget is the Human and Health Services Division with nearly $280 million being invested in housing supports and children’s, long-term and social services.

“We are making investments in new units, refurbishing existing properties, and expanding our programming for those experiencing homelessness,” Mayor Drew Dilkens said. “The pandemic exposed the cracks in our system, and the City of Windsor has stepped in, working with community partners and service organizations to deliver meaningful improvements across the board.”

Additional housing and human services included in the 2022 budget:

  • 108 new affordable and supportive housing units in our community.
  • $841,000 in operating funding for new supportive housing units and the new emergency shelter for women and families.
  • Addition of a Full-time Coordinator of Housing Administration & Development.
  • Over $640,000 in COVID-19-related operating funding pressures.
  • 5 permanent Housing First Workers, who provide long-term wraparound supports to people experiencing or at risk of homelessness to obtain and maintain housing.
  • 2 Homelessness Street Outreach Workers, who play a paramount role in ensuring that any person who is currently isolated or disconnected from community services or supports can get reconnected in a respectful and safe manner.
  • Housing Hub – Glos Arch + Eng has been retained as the consultant to explore concepts for a housing hub, conduct community consultations, and develop a feasibility study for consideration.
  • Homelessness and Housing Help Hub (H4) – The H4 is a valuable asset in the community, providing actionable and rapid supports to assist in transitioning persons from homelessness into long-term housing with wraparound supports.