CALGARY -- Hundreds of vulnerable Calgarians now have a safe, affordable and welcoming place of their own.

Horizon View in Glamorgan will officially open its final phase on June 24, completing the 210 unit building that is the largest affordable housing development to be built in Calgary in a decade. 

"We’re spending a lot of time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. What does that mean if you didn’t have a home? What does that mean if you’re housing is precarious?" asked Arianne Brady, Horizon Housing's director of stakeholder relations.

"Right now in Calgary we have 3,000 homeless Calgarians. We also have 17,000 households that are spending more than half their income on rent and making less than $30,000 a year."

Horizon View provides long-term homes and a supportive community for Calgarians with mobility issues, mental challenges, health challenges or financial challenges as well as seniors, people experiencing domestic violence or homelessness.

"Our average rent is about half of what you’d see on the market," explained Brady. 

Ashley Pinay moved into Horizon View when the first phase was completed in 2018.

"For the first time in my life I live on my own and it’s beautiful," said Pinay. "That’s my bed, that’s my couch, this is all mine. I am ecstatic that I live on my own."

The 44 year-old faced physical and sexual abuse as a child. He lived in foster care, was in and out of institutions, and ended up in prison for armed robbery.

He was attacked by another inmate and sustained a severe brain injury in 2003. Despite unfavourable medical expectations, he regained consciousness, learned to walk and talk again and was left with a whole new demeanour.

"When I woke up I was labelled with having childlike politeness."

Pinay completed his prison sentence in 2005 and — with the help of the Universal Rehabilitation Service Agency (URSA) — he eventually gained the independence to live on his own at Horizon View.

He has become a public speaker, sharing his experiences and life lessons with students. Having a secure and comfortable place to call home has been a crucial step in his journey.

"Horizon Housing’s partnership with URSA has made my dream a reality where I can live on my own and successfully."

He said the community spaces in the building make it easy to develop friends and that has helped him restore communication skills.

"I have trouble understanding facial expressions and my family in this building here understands that."

Horizon View was created with support from the municipal, provincial and federal government as well as donations from partner companies.

"Homelessness is more expensive than housing," said Brady, adding several studies have confirmed the alternative costs to society outweigh the price of housing.

"So providing housing is not only the right thing to do, it makes economic sense as well."