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Campbell River's Rose Harbour a ‘saviour’ for one resident

From left, Coun. Andy Adams, Shayne Ramsay, CEO for BC Housing, Rose Harbour residents Tiffany Gareau and Nancy O’Connell, and Valery Puetz and Darlene Hawes with the North Island Transition Society cut the ribbon during the grand opening of Rose Harbour on Thursday.  - Kristen Douglas/The Mirror
From left, Coun. Andy Adams, Shayne Ramsay, CEO for BC Housing, Rose Harbour residents Tiffany Gareau and Nancy O’Connell, and Valery Puetz and Darlene Hawes with the North Island Transition Society cut the ribbon during the grand opening of Rose Harbour on Thursday.
— image credit: Kristen Douglas/The Mirror

Rose Harbour residents and staff showed off their new home to the public Thursday afternoon with an emotional grand opening.

From the time Valery Puetz, executive director of the Transition Society, took the podium to a ribbon cutting 20 minutes later, there weren’t too many dry eyes in the room.

Puetz couldn’t hold back her emotions as she welcomed the more than 35 guests in attendance.

“I didn’t expect it to happen so soon, but I knew I’d cry,” said a choked up Puetz with the Campbell River and North Island Transition Society. “Today is Thanksgiving in the United States. We’re not celebrating that here but we have a lot to be thankful for.”

Puetz recalled that a safe, affordable home for women struggling to overcome addiction and fleeing abuse had been a priority for the Transition Society since 2006 and the home was a “long time coming.”

As Puetz thanked the staff at the society for sticking it out and the women who have made Rose Habour their home, many guests couldn’t hold back their tears.

“Thank you to our supporters; we called on you in our time of need and you’ve been there,” Puetz said. “Thank you for being there, and holding everything together. But the biggest thank-you of all is to the women who live here. Thank-you for trusting us.”

Two of those women, Tiffany Gareau and Nancy O’Connell, provided some insight into what it’s like to live at Rose Harbour.

O’Connell said her participation in the programs offered, such as her weekly meetings with the health nurse, have turned her life around.

“For many years I’ve lost myself to abuse and addition,” said O’Connell. “Somewhere along the line I lost the help and support of others, especially my daughters. It got to the point they would call to just make sure I was alive. I was in and out of jail and I found myself homeless.”

But that all changed with Rose Harbour.

“Rose Harbour became my saviour,” O’Connell said. “With baby steps I’ve allowed myself to open up and accept help. Rose Harbour gave me a second chance and gave me the tools to succeed. I thank God every day for the staff at Rose Harbour; finally, I have a place to call home.”

Gareau, a 24-year-old mother of three young girls, said Rose Harbour has taught her how to be a better parent.

“I come from a long line of addition and abuse,” Gareau said. “Since staying at Rose Harbour I’ve learned healthy ways of dealing with addiction and how to be a good mother. The staff here does so much more than their job title. I’m so happy to have a beautiful home to raise my family.”

Rose Harbour is also home to about 25 other women and their families. The apartments are rented out by the women, based on their income.

The suites include a living room area, a kitchen, and a bed.

Rose Harbour offers walking and stretching groups, morning meditation, yoga and exercise classes, access to child support workers, as well as community kitchen sessions. There are support workers on staff at Rose Harbour to provide whatever support the residents may need.

Rose Harbour opened downtown on Dogwood Street in July.

The $6.4 million facility was a joint project between BC Housing and the city, which donated the land valued at $431,072.

The province provided $6 million for the construction and will fund the financing and annual operation costs of more than $600,000.

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