Finding affordable housing is a constant challenge for many people in Calgary and those who are living in shelters face even more obstacles when they're ready to transition into their own apartment.

Munir Bakri moved to Calgary from Hamilton late last year to be closer to family and when his living arrangements fell through he found himself on the steps of the Calgary Drop-in and Rehabilitation Centre.

Bakri spent a couple of months at the centre and in October was able to transition to his own apartment at Bridgeland Manor.

“It’s wonderful. It’s one bedroom, to get it is like luck, the way you see in the city, it’s difficult to find a place,” said Bakri. “It’s very quiet, nice neighbourhood, close to downtown, so I’m amazed that a shelter owns its own residence place, it’s amazing”

He says it’s important for the Drop-in Centre to have more complexes like Bridgland Manor so more people can get back to leading productive lives.

“When people have a place they can be productive,” he said. “Definitely, I support because always when you go through the housing list it takes years to wait, I see many people even have medical issues, low income, go there and just wait so this kind of investment is another way to help people.”

The manager of the property says she sees a difference right away when former Drop-In Centre clients move in.

“It’s life-changing. There’s a dog eat dog world out there and when they come and have their own apartment then it just changes them altogether. Their self-esteem comes back, their self-worth. They’re able to do things that they couldn’t at the Drop-in Centre and they want to learn how to cook. We share recipes, we do potluck so that they can experiment on the rest of us and we just try to see how we can help each other in the building,” said Sharon Milgate, Coordinator, Supported Living Services, Calgary Drop-in and Rehabilitation Centre.

Milgate says this type of housing sets clients up for success by providing programs, supports and services to help them transition and rebuild their lives.

 “We continue on with it while they’re residents as well and provide services that no other apartment building would do for its residents,” she said. “For example, I might take them to the doctor’s office if they have mobility issues or if they’re afraid of going there themselves. I also set up a shopping day, a monthly shopping day where I take them for groceries or anything that they want.”

There are 49 rooms at Bridgeland Manor and currently the waiting list to get in is about three times that.

The Drop-In Centre says it has another building ready to go but that it has been tied up in red tape for the last few months so it is sitting vacant.

Centre 4800 in the city’s northeast was purchased by the Drop-In Centre about three years ago and is part of a larger development for the area called Greenview Commons.

The city rejected the original plans for the mixed-use development of the old hotel on McKnight Boulevard and some residents in nearby communities are opposed to the idea.

The Drop-In Centre’s Executive Director, Debbie Newman, says part of the problem is that there is a misconception surrounding the homeless community and that education is needed to break down those barriers.

“It really boils down to education. We need to be able as agencies to work with communities to talk to them about the reasons why people become homeless and to educate them around some of the misconceptions. Not everyone that walks through our doors is a criminal. We have many people that are well-educated that were in not-so-nice relationships that had a health issue that got them on E.I., couldn’t afford the rent, ended up coming to our place. There’s just so many different stories,” she said.

Newman says there’s bad apples everywhere and that the goal is to identify those people who would truly benefit from living in their own home and help them to achieve their independence.

 “The message is there is such a great need for housing, especially for the marginalized people that live in shelter. It’s a challenge for most people that walk through our doors to try to build their life up from where they came,” said Newman. “We need to be able to pick them up and to provide them with guidance, to give them some security, to give them hope that there’s another place that they can move into, graduate from, using the shelter, and then move into their own place.”

The Calgary Drop-In and Rehabilitation Centre has appealed the city's rejection of the project and filed a revised plan that will include more public consultation. It hopes to have people living in Centre 4800 later this year or by early 2017.

Centre 4800 is the first part of a much larger vision, Greenview Commons, to regenerate the area. To learn more about the project click HERE.

(With files from Kevin Fleming)