Nelson Mayor Deb Kozak has an intimate connection with Ward Street Place — she acted as its landlord for three years — so she was especially thrilled to attend the grand re-opening of the space during a press conference this morning.
“I am deeply pleased to be here,” said Kozak. “I am so proud and so happy that money is being put into this 100-year-old facility not only to upgrade it but to make it a real home … I’m very proud to be standing here upon the completion of this project.”
It was announced that Ward Street Place has added 10 new supportive housing units for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, bringing the total to 45 units. Extensive renovations have also been completed.
Additionally, Stepping Stones Emergency Shelter has now moved from the basement of Ward Street Place to a building at 816 Vernon St., which has four new supportive housing units and a 17-bed year-round shelter.
But Kozak reminded the community there’s more work to be done.
“The affordable housing crisis in this country is not just Nelson-centric or BC-centric. It’s national.”
She said at a recent Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference all the mayors and regional directors in attendance were talking about how to address it.
“We need a spectrum of housing options available to people in our communities,” she said, praising the Housing First model. “We have to do better.”
Grateful for shelter
Ward Street Place resident Deb Blenderman shared her personal story and expressed gratitude for the support she’s received over the years.
“I moved here October of last year, and I love it,” she said.
She’d previously lived there in 1980s and believes the landlord from that time would be proud to know the space continues to be used to support vulnerable citizens.
“He would be so proud we’re continuing with low-income and helping people out,” she said.
Blenderman said mobility issues have been plaguing her, but Nelson CARES was able to get her a room where everything’s easily accessible.
“It’s gorgeous. I’m really proud of my space. I got one of the nice ones.”
Blenderman said the newly-opened space the news conference was held in will work well as a community space, and she’s been trying to start a craft night to get people out of their individual units.
“I’m working to make a community here and this room is a real asset,” she said. “I can’t say enough for all the money that’s come in and all the support.”
Nearing $3 million goal
Nelson CARES executive director Jenny Robinson said the announcement is part of their larger project to see the full renewal of Ward Street Place by the end of 2017.
“We started out with a goal of $3 million,” she said, recounting how they were able to leverage $2.3 million through the Columbia Basin Trust, BC Housing, federal government and City of Nelson.
Fundraising efforts so far have raised half of the remaining $700,000.
“We just have this last little bit left, so I’m excited about the prospect of seeing that goal met and seeing this building renewed.”
She thanked everyone for their support. Along with representatives from the Nelson Police Department, city councillors Michael Dailly and Bob Adams were in attendance along with former council member Donna Macdonald and former mayor John Dooley and his wife Pat.
Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks and Boundary-Similkameen MLA Linda Larson both spoke, as did Columbia Basin Trust president Neil Muth.
Robinson thanked them.
“We are grateful for the partnership with the federal and provincial governments and with Columbia Basin Trust. This project demonstrates a deep commitment to providing safe affordable housing in Nelson.”
She said they’re looking to the future.
“This is a 100-year-old building and we’re hoping through our efforts it will stand for another 40 years and house people in the community with health and prosperity.”