By Wendy Elliott
The Valley Refuge Association has just completed the development and construction of a 10-bedroom transitional housing complex for men in Kentville.
Called the Refuge, the two-apartment facility is located on the second floor at 437 Main St. The entrance is next to the Save Easy parking lot.
At a recent open house there was a lot of interest expressed and a lot of desire from the community to help both the housing and an adjacent youth centre succeed, according to secretary Belinda Tupper.
“We had an offer from one church who felt they'd like to put together personal hygiene packs with razors, shaving foam, soap, antiperspirant, etc., that are expensive to buy, but necessary. This would be a tremendous boost for residents.”
As a transitional housing project, The Refuge will take referrals for men who are at risk of homelessness and need to make change and know they need help to get there.
“We can accept applications from any male aged 19 and older who finds themselves in this situation,” Tupper said.
Service Canada, who funded part of the project, has a definition of youth, which is ages 15 to 30, Tupper added, but the local group is aiming to house adults.
Not being a 24-hour care facility for detox or mental health treatment, the individuals who are selected for residency will be those who are low income, who may be at risk, but are stable and able to function independently with support, she said.
“Safety and security of the individual, staff and those already living in the house, and the wider community will be considered when processing all applications.”
Tupper said The Refuge has a selection committee made up of professionals from various backgrounds who have experience with, and understand the issues.
“We realize this means that we will not be able to house every individual who is at risk, but the nine that we do serve will gain a great benefit, and we hope will be able to make lasting change in their lives.”
From its beginning in a series of roundtable discussions in 2008, Tupper said, the project went through various planning, development and construction phases and is now complete.
Both federal and provincial funding for transitional housing helped make the creative redevelopment in the old Paramount Theatre feasible.
Tupper said volunteers helped pay for the construction work, assisted with painting and carpet installation. All of the furnishings are brand new.
“People gave days and days to make this happen,” she said, looking around the spacious new facility.
Each resident will pay rent for an individual room. They are outfitted with a desk, bed and freestanding cupboard. Each apartment has laundry facilities.
Mark Neenema was construction manager on the project. Rik and Cathy Berry of the Valley Gate Vineyard Christian Fellowship, which owns the building, contributed their time as board members.
Ad deZeeuw is association treasurer and Russ Sanche is the fifth board member of the ecumenical, charitable non-profit organization.
Back in 2008, “we didn’t know each other (as a board),” said Tupper. “We just clicked and put our collective shoulders to the wheel.”
Tupper, who used to work at the Kings County Housing Repair Society, was well aware of the need for transitional housing and said The Refuge does not replace the need for a shelter locally.
The board received input from Ingrid Blais at the Homefires L’Arche community in Wolfville and Betty Kalk at Chrysalis House in Kentville.
“This has been a very co-operative effort,” Tupper noted. “People have gone above and beyond.”
She added that The Refuge is opening on a shoestring and will need to fundraise for operational costs. It will be run on non-denominational Christian values.