A cesspool, a place of exploitation, a craphole.
Politicians and other officials did not mince words Friday in their descriptions of the Rendezvous strip club that used to stand at 271 Victoria Street West.
The stage, the dance pole and the shower are long gone, cleared away with dumpsters of detritus from a place steeped in negativity.
From that rubble has risen Emerald Centre, coloured green like the gem to signify hope and home. As shelter manager Charlene Eden explained, in the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy arrives at the Emerald City and all she wants to do is go home.
"We don't want our clients back. It's not that we don't love them. It's because we love them. We want them to achieve a home," she said.
Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake recalled being on a ride-along with the RCMP and ending up at the 'Vous, watching officers take down a significant gang leader.
Now the building is a place "of hope and second chances."
B.C. Housing gave the Kamloops branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association a $2.7-million mortgage to buy the building and do the renovations. The province is also contributing $1.5 million a year for it to operate.
The centre provides 35 beds of 24-hour emergency shelter and 11 transitional housing apartments for men and women who are on the cusp of homelessness or fleeing violence.
It combines the former Emerald House women's shelter and the Kamloops Men's Christian Hostel. The latter building, half a block away from Emerald Centre, was taken over by CMHA for offices and other services.
CMHA executive director Doug Sage hinted that the hostel building will provide services never done in Kamloops before. But he couldn't announce anything yet.
He did, however, rename the building. It is now the Gordon Bregoliss Centre, in honour of a man who was on the hostel society's board for 45 of its 50 years.
Bregoliss, 90, was in the audience, which gave a standing ovation as Sage paid tribute to him.
Sage went on to credit designers, workers, volunteers, non-profit agencies, politicians — almost everyone who had a hand in making Emerald Centre a reality. A safe and secure reality for people who need a sanctuary from life on the street.
It's outfitted to accommodate people with disabilities, with lifts and ramps and even alarms for the deaf.
Deputy Mayor Tina Lange, who described the 'Vous as "a craphole," was thrilled with the transformation.
"I was on council when this place was shut down and I cheered. I always saw it as a building that destroyed people."
ASK Wellness executive director Bob Hughes, who was project manager on Emerald Centre, said the miracle is in the numbers. Despite being a year overdue, the project came in under budget.
"I see something that will transform the city's homelessness services," he said.
There's one tradition that is being carried over from Emerald House to the new Emerald Centre.
Sage said there's a woman who donated quilts for every bed at the old shelter. She's now making them for every bed at the new one.
And when clients leave, they take those quilts with them.
"It's the one thing we give them that makes them cry."