L'Arche community members present their work at an art show. Photo courtesy of L'Arche Vancouver

L’Arche ready to build a new beginning in Burnaby

By  Agnieszka Krawczynski, Canadian Catholic News
  • October 4, 2018

VANCOUVER – A community built around love for people with developmental disabilities is undergoing ground-breaking changes.

L’Arche of Greater Vancouver has been running housing, offices, community events and a prayer space on Sussex Avenue in Burnaby since 1974. With a building more than 50 years old, according to L’Arche, it’s time for it to go.

“It was actually a home for unwed mothers that the United Church built and gifted to us for a nominal sum,” said executive director Denise Haskett. Now, the organization has found the building is old, too small and inaccessible for many they serve.

“Today, things are very different for children with developmental disabilities” compared with 44 years ago, said Haskett. Increasing programs exist for schools and young families, but “there is still a long way to go in terms of supporting people once they become adults.”

The Burnaby property will be redeveloped to make way for a three-storey wood frame structure, complete with L’Arche residences for adults, community inclusion spaces, a chapel, offices, 10 independent living units and 29 affordable housing units.

The charity was founded in France in 1964 when Canadian Catholic humanitarian Jean Vanier invited two men from an institution near his home to live with him. Since then, L’Arche has spread to 37 countries with 152 communities where people with and without developmental disabilities live together.

L’Arche’s Sussex Avenue building houses 19 people with and 17 people without developmental disabilities while serving another 20 thanks to its community inclusion programs.

They unveiled their plans to redevelop the land (at a price tag of $5 million) during a meet-and-greet with Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, Sept. 13.

“The excellent community environment and personal relationships that L’Arche fosters are true reflections of the love and ministry of Jesus,” Miller said.

He described the fundraising and rebuilding campaign, called We All Belong, as timely and necessary.

The event included 16 special guests and a private art show of 18 never-before-seen works by L’Arche community members.

“I’ve come to discover it as a movement for peace in our world because it’s like a mini-United Nations,” said Haskett, who has been involved in the community for 30 years. “There are people from all different religions and cultural faith traditions committed to building community together,” she said.

To date, L’Arche has received $1.65 million in donations and pledges toward the new building. Construction is slated to begin in the fall of 2019. 

(The B.C. Catholic)

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