Nelson CARES’ Jenny Robinson was helping a tenant move into her new unit in Ward St. Place —the downstairs shelter has now been converted into seven brand new apartments — and was surprised when she was met with tears.
“This woman, when she saw her own private bathroom, she started crying. She said to me ‘I’ve never had my own bathroom before’,” Robinson told the Star, in sharing the impetus behind next Friday’s fundraiser concert for the Room to Live campaign at the Capitol Theatre.
“It’s really important that people who live in poverty are treated with dignity. I look at the system a different way, and our systems aren’t fair to people. The work of Nelson CARES is to level that playing field as much as we can.”
Six Kootenay divas will be featured at the concert, which sold out last year, and local musician Clinton Swanson will bring his six-piece band. The audience can appreciate the vocal stylings of Nelson cultural amabassador Bessie Wapp as well as Sydney Black, Laura Landsberg, Melody Diachun, Bo Conlan and Aryn Sherrif. Robinson promised it will be an energetic night with something for everyone.
Nelson residents will also get the opportunity to hear testimonials from residents such as Tom, who spoke to the crowd last year and shared his experience of poverty.
“In his own words, Tom came to Ward St. Place sick and broke. Through his residency with us he regained his health. Sometimes you just need a hand up. He’s now completely rebuilt his life, which is a great story for us and a better story for him.”
Tom now has a full-time job and is a participating member of society.
“Without us Tom, and people like Tom, would likely end up in the hospital system, and that costs the system an incredible amount of money.”
Robinson said most people don’t realize that it’s significantly cheaper to house the homeless than to pay for the services they need without a home.
“If you don’t have a house, you don’t have anything,” she said. “An acute care bed at the hospital is $1,500 a night. A month’s rent at Ward St. Place is about $400. Do the math. If you have someone that’s ill with a mental health disorder plus physical illness, over the course of their adult lifetime they’re going to cost the system millions of dollars.”
She’s grateful to live in a community that cares about the most disadvantaged among us. And the results are becoming tangible: they’re currently in the midst of renovating the rooms.
“It’s been a slow process, but we’ve done about 10 rooms moving slowly through the building. They’ve got new flooring, new kitchens, new drywall. The rooms are completely refreshed and they look great.”
New weather-proof windows are also in the process of being installed.
“This is what we call the livability and energy efficiency phase of our campaign,” said Robinson.
“Deb’s stayed in contact with me over the years about it. She’s excited and happy about what we’re doing for the building, and this is a chance for us to celebrate the community’s contribution.”
Robinson thanked Nelsonites for their contributions, saying the rooms will have a huge impact on their occupants’ lives.
“Even if it’s small and modest, it’s still a clean and safe place to live.”
The concert on Nov. 20 begins at 7:30 p.m.