Nelson CARES Society’s goal to provide affordable living is gaining momentum as they launch their Room to Live campaign. The campaign aims to raise the final $690,000 needed to top off the $2.2 million raised thus far to carry out the affordable housing project which is redeveloping apartments in a 100-year-old heritage building at 567 Ward Street.
The money raised will be used to refurbish each room, the common living spaces, install energy efficient windows and doors and fund a long-term maintenance reserve. This stage of funding preserves 45 rooms for 50 years at $15,000 per room.
Jenny Robinson and Ron Little, executive director and chair of NCARES board respectively, made a presentation on October 30 of the work done so far, such as fire suppression and electrical upgrades. Robinson said the value of affordable housing effects the entire community and welcomes financial support or volunteers for the campaign team.
This building is one of the only low income housing blocks in the region. It is home to people living in poverty and those who have escaped homelessness.
Sam, a Ward Street Place tenant for 10 years, shared his past struggles and what the building means to him.
“There are as many reasons that people come here as there are people,” he said. “As many people age, lose their spouses or the ability to drive, there will be more people needing assistance.”
He recounted his experience that found him bouncing from place to place.
He said he worked but made a very low income and did not have many options. Then he went through a “very rough spot for about 10 years” suffering from anxiety and depression.
“I had a really tough time coping with events in my life, a marriage collapsing, and family members dying,” said Sam.
He described it as period of “mental anguish” that he medicated with prescription drugs and alcohol.
“I slowly lost the ability to earn a living,” he said.
“I eventually got help but it took a long time as I was too proud to tap in to the system. I was bouncing around so much, I could not even collect welfare (without an address).”
“I thank God I found this place. It’s a safe haven,” he said. He has since managed to overcome his pain.
“Some people will never be homeless,” he said. “They can cope with a family death and always have a support network and the financial means to weather tough times but not everyone does.”
NCARES receives no public funding to operate the building and it serves the region’s most vulnerable citizens. Ward Street Place has 35 single room occupancy units and three apartments of affordable housing.
“This is the first time for Nelson CARES to have a fundraiser this substantial and it took almost three years to get here,” said Robinson. “The goal is to provide a clean and dignified space to live.”
Robinson and Little thanked the many donors thus far, including the City of Nelson who committed $15,000 to renovate one unit and the Nelson CARES board for not being too afraid of the dollar amount needed for this project.
Donna Macdonald, acting mayor and city councillor said, “NCARES is taking the lead, now it’s up to us, everyone in the community to get behind the project.”
The Nelson and District Credit Union is the first corporate sponsor with a donation of $30,000 over three years. The Regional District of Central Kootenay has committed $56,500. With the City’s $15,000 contribution, Room to Live is $101,500 closer to its goal.
Robinson said that first responders, like the Nelson Fire and Rescue and Nelson Police Department have been supporting this project from the beginning as they see the direct correlation between their calls and homelessness. So much so that the firefighters have made this project their fundraising beneficiary for the year.
NCARES estimates the renovation of the apartments facing Victoria Street will be complete in two to three weeks.
Room to Live will present Musical Extravaganza, a benefit concert for the renewal of Ward Street Place, featuring seven musicians and performers with Lucas Myers emceeing the evening at the Capitol Theatre on November 14.
Advance tickets are $20 at the Capitol Theatre box office and Eclectic Circus or $25 at the door.
There will also be an online silent auction that will go live tomorrow afternoon. The online bidding will end on November 13 at 6:30 p.m. It will resume at the Musical Extravaganza where the final bidding will close. The website to the online auction is 32auctions.com/roomtolive.
For more information visit NelsonCares.ca/room-live/.