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Victoria apartment building donated to house homeless youth

An anonymous donor has given a $725,000 Victoria apartment complex to the region’s homeless youth.

An anonymous donor has given a $725,000 Victoria apartment complex to the region’s homeless youth.

With four two-bedroom units, the apartment building on Davie Street in the South Jubilee neighbourhood will be the subject of a massive community makeover in September.

“The donor, who approached us, has worked with children and youth and understands how important stable housing is for them,” said Mark Muldoon, executive director of Threshold Housing Society.

The non-profit charity provides supportive and semi-independent housing for youth ages 16 to 21 at risk of homelessness, including those in government care. Many need a stable home to finish high school or enter the work force, he said, noting the youth do not have behavourial issues or a criminal history.

“This is so exciting for us, especially at this time,” said Muldoon, citing a spring spike in housing demand and increased food costs.

“It’s been a perfect storm of things. To get a gift like this building is such a boon,” he said.

The 1950s apartment complex, zoned for residential and office use, is just a block down from another Threshold home for boys. It will be used as semi-independent housing for up to eight young people. One unit will also have an office for Threshold staff and be used for life skills training, such as cooking.

The building needs substantial renovations before youth can move in, which is where Paul Latour’s Hero Work Program comes in.

“What we do is a modern-day version of an old-fashioned barn-raising,” said Latour.

In 2008, the Oak Bay Marina Restaurant server was inspired to do an “extreme makeover” of a garden for a friend with multiple sclerosis. He managed to get dozens of businesses and volunteers on-board, raising $25,000 in supplies and services. The next year, he led a makeover for the Casa Maria Emergency Housing Society.

Last year, he directed a $500,000 overhaul of the Mustard Seed Food Bank in nine days.

“Something opened up inside of me. That feeling has been part of this since,” said Latour, also a motivational speaker. Hundreds of local businesses and volunteers have helped on the Hero Work projects.

Latour said he was able to take on the Threshold renovation with a $24,000 startup grant from the Bosa Foundation — the charitable wing of the group that recently purchased the Empress Hotel.

“That gets us started, but there is still a lot to do,” said Latour. He estimates the total value of the project to be around $300,000 in donated contracting services, supplies and funds.

An assessment of the building revealed drainage issues, some asbestos under the floors and major electrical and plumbing issues. These will all be replaced.

Four interior designers will take on one apartment each. They will be outfitted with gender-neutral decor and furnishings.

“We have an incredible team but still need a whole lot of contractors and supplies — everything from landscaping and flooring materials to concrete and plywood,” said Latour.

They also need good quality household items such as tables, flat screen TVs, cutlery and bedding.

The renovation will take place over four weekends, starting with a kickoff community block party Sept. 19. Latour said all the contractors will parade through town in a “convoy of awesome” and converge at the site for an opening ceremony with food and entertainment.

“We will bring in a ton of people for this radical renovation,” he said. “It really brings people together.”

Latour is documenting the entire process on his website: Contact him at [email protected]

Anyone interested in donating or volunteering can contact him there.

[email protected]