NORTH BAY -- Turning on the machines for the first time and scooping up a "ceremonial" first shovel, the North Bay Indigenous Centre broke ground on its transitional housing project Tuesday morning.

"It’s actually the end of a couple of years of hard work and planning and fundraising," Vice President Maurice Switzer said. "But it’s the beginning of what we think is the most substantial project in North Bay to deal with the homeless situation."

The 18,000 square foot building is expected to take 48 weeks to complete and will feature three stories and 30 housing units.

"It will not just be a building, it will not just be a home for them. It will provide wrap-around services," Switzer said. "There will be cultural services, educational services, health services, and we know from experience, across the road, the North Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre has been providing services for urban Indigenous peoples for over 40 years, and Indigenous peoples feel more comfortable when they’re working with Indigenous service providers."

He said that this is a problem across Canada and this new project is expected to make a huge difference in North Bay.

"It’s not dealing with the whole problem but it’s a permeant type of solution. There are all sorts of band-aid solutions that are happening," Switzer said. "For example, shelters purchasing a temporary hotel accommodation for the homeless, that doesn’t deal with the real problem in a systemic way. That’s a band-aid and this is a more permeant type of solution and we would like to see other agencies in the city doing similar things."

Construction is being done by Praztek Construction and it will be located on the corner of Cassells Street and Fifth Avenue across from the Indigenous Friendship Centre.

"It’s going to be well landscaped. There’s going to be some planting done behind the building and it’s going to be a real positive addition to the community, the neighbourhood and the city," Switzer said.