Daniel Perrett sits on the floor of a living room that is crowded with boxes of toilet paper, dishes and gift bags. There are two dozen people milling around him, writing a message in a card.
"Hi there! Welcome to our neighbourhood. We are so happy that you are here. We hope that you love your new home and new neighbours. God bless you! Daniel P."
That card from Mr. Perrett, recently returned from South Korea where he was teaching English, will go into a bag filled with shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrush, socks and more.
In a couple of weeks, it will be given to one of 78 people moving into Vancouver's newest temporary housing project for the homeless – an experiment that is a first for any North American city with its model of putting stacked trailer-like units onto temporarily vacant properties around the city.
That experiment is a result of the NDP government's commitment to building 2,000 modular units in B.C. to cope with the homelessness crisis. It's also getting a lot of praise from housing advocates.
But it has generated wildly different responses from the five neighbourhoods where land for the projects has been identified so far, ranging from extreme apprehension and even lawsuits to wary acceptance to almost Biblical welcomes.
For the people such as Mr. Perrett and others who have gathered this night in a modest rancher a few blocks from the just-completed project in Marpole, there is no question about helping out.
Helen Colliander, a Grade 12 student from nearby Churchill secondary school, is part of a group of high-school students who came out in support of the Marpole project. When it was announced three months ago, the project prompted opposition and a site protest that forced the city to get an injunction to be able to start construction.
"Our main goal is to unite the community," said Ms. Colliander, sitting on the floor with Mr. Perrett, his wife, Megan, and fellow student Jonathan Jung.
Elsewhere, other neighbours are taking different approaches.
In False Creek South, the unique neighbourhood created in the 1970s with a mix of social housing, co-ops and some market housing on city-owned leased land, residents have formed a working group to scrutinize the details of the 50 units of modular housing coming to a vacant lot near the Canada Line station there.
"This is a community that already is related to affordable housing and people with less money," said Kathryn Woodward, one of those involved. "It doesn't mean there aren't people opposed."
The group works to help reduce people's anxieties about the project by getting and distributing as much information as possible about who will be moving in, how much staff support there will be on-site, and what will happen if problems develop.
Jim Woodward, Kathryn's husband, said some people are concerned because of the extreme problems that developed when a large, new social-housing project opened near the Olympic village several years ago.
So they brought in former city councillor Marguerite Ford, whom the troubled project had been named after, to talk about strategies to ensure that the new temporary housing will be a success.
"We asked tough questions. But we've been able to get a lot of information and distribute that," Mr. Woodward said.
In a neighbourhood near the 29th Avenue SkyTrain station at Renfrew, there is no formal residents association like the one in False Creek.
But people at Collingwood Neighbourhood House, a few kilometres to the south of the site that has been identified, have thrown themselves into negotiating with city staff about the 50-unit project.
They're meeting to figure out how much say the neighbourhood can have in choosing who will move in and what to do to make sure new residents aren't isolated at the project, which is not situated close to any shops, restaurants or community services.
"What I'm hearing mostly is there's an acceptance of the need. People acknowledge there are homeless people in the neighbourhood, couch-surfing, living in bad housing situations, in the ravine," said the neighbourhood house's executive director, Jennifer Gray-Grant.
But the speed at which the city is working has made it hard for residents to absorb, she said. The Marpole project was completed only three months after it was first announced, the same schedule that's expected for other projects.
"What's been difficult is the fast, fast timelines for residents," she said. "They need time to think about it."