Yorkton’s Yail Harbor Inc. is about to break ground on a housing project five years in the making.
Yail Harbor, a local non-profit that provides personal care and housing for Yorkton’s mentally and physically disabled, has spent half a decade developing its Pathway Homes project: a plan to build three “universally accessible” triplexes for nine of its 40 clients. The first of these will begin construction next month.
Yail Harbor’s clients are currently housed in group homes or standard apartments and suites around the city according to their level of independence. Many of these apartments have substandard conditions, and few of them were built with the needs of those with disabilities in mind.
Pathway Homes will change that. The new triplexes—divided into three single-bedroom units, each 700-800 square feet—are designed with widened doors, lowered light switches, pullout cabinet racks, pot fillers on the stoves, and other features intended to improve accessibility.
Just as importantly, monthly rent for the units (usually provided on behalf of the clients by the provincial government) will go directly to Yail Harbor rather than to private landlords. Once the mortgages on the buildings are paid off, the non-profit intends to use the income to keep constructing homes. Ideally, it hopes to one day provide purpose-built housing for all of its clients.
“This is kind of the start of a project that will go for years and years—something that can stand on its own down the road,” says John den Brok, chair of the Yail Harbor Building Committee. “I may be long gone and buried, but what we started here won’t be finished.”
Three-quarters of the $400,000 construction cost of each of the buildings is to be borrowed under a mortgage, leaving $100,000 per triplex to be raised by Yail Harbor. Thanks to donations from individuals, businesses such as Value Tire, and service groups such as the Knights of Columbus and the Lions Club, the group has enough money to go ahead with the first triplex this spring. It hopes to have raised enough to start on the second by the fall.
The single biggest supporter of the project has been the City of Yorkton, which donated a parcel of land valued at $250,000 on Mayfair Avenue and Harris Street at the southeast corner of the city. The city will also add streets and services to the lots, which were previously undeveloped.
So far, Yail Harbor has received no help on the project from the provincial or federal governments, although den Brok still holds out hope. The relatively low one-time cost of the ultimately self-sustaining project should be a “no-brainer” for the province, he argues.
In the meantime, Yail Harbor clients have been canvassing the community with fliers seeking donations to the plan. Moving ahead on the second triplex this year will be difficult, but achievable with enough local support.
“Our clients are very excited,” says den Brok.
The building chair, too, is excited. Den Brok and his wife have raised a son with Down syndrome themselves.
“My wife has even mentioned a few times, ‘Maybe when we retire, we should move to Saskatoon or Regina where they have better programs.’
“I want to make it so parents don’t have to say that anymore.”