In a stunning transformation, the former youth detention centre at 94 Talcott Road in View Royal has become an oasis for those seeking rehabilitation and recovery from addiction, incarceration and homelessness.
In collaboration with HeroWork, a local team of volunteers who help rebuild buildings belonging to charitable organizations, Our Place renovated the centre to accommodate up to 48 men.
More than 500 volunteers and 120 businesses have worked to bring the space to life.
Included in the upgrades are 8 living areas, 24 bedroom spaces, a larger dining space, an outdoor garden area with a water feature, an arts and crafts room and outdoor spaces for food production.
View Royal town council approved rezoning for the facility in June 2018, and it has been operating as a therapeutic community since October with Our Place Society.
The new Therapeutic Recovery Community has had significant changes done to soften its institutional, concrete features. Wood, fabric, decorative lighting, and fireplaces now bring warmth to the centre, creating a safe space for men who have suffered significant trauma and are struggling to put their lives back together after incarceration and homelessness.
Tracie Clayton, the Executive Director of HeroWork Victoria, says the entire project was valued at about $650,000, but the actual cost to put it together with the help of volunteers and donors was around $100,000.
The Healing Garden outside features a koi pond and various spots to sit and reflect. That project was funded by a donation. Along with a longhouse-style wood pavilion, it has significantly changed the outdoor space, which was once just gravel.
"It truly is incredible what HeroWork has done to transform the interiors of the former youth custody centre," said Our Place CEO Don Evans. "The generosity of the volunteers and skillset of the trade professionals has been amazing to watch. And the new garden that has come about because of a local philanthropist will be such a place of healing and transformation for the residents."
A resident at the unveiling event Saturday, Clifford Johnson said that seeing all of the work done by volunteers to improve the space for him and the other men was humbling.
“Leaving one system to this community … everybody brings a good energy. [Formerly working] in construction, it was music to my ears.” said Johnson. “It was hard for me to sit back and watch them work, but I took the time to observe everything they were doing. From volunteering their weekends to showing up every day … they just want to have a purpose and give back to a community that’s going to help other guys coming in here.”
Future additions will include greenhouses for residents to grow their own food, and a chicken coop, as part of the organization’s intention to provide meaningful work as a means to heal from trauma.
The facility did not welcome new residents during construction, but Evans says the centre has already begun to accept additional residents with the increased space.
The completed Therapeutic Recovery Community has been five years in the making, and Our Place is enthusiastic that the new renovations will improve the chances of recovery for men seeking to rebuild their lives.