It’s been a lot of hard work and a long time coming, but the Campbell River Head Injury Support Society has begun work on a housing facility that will go a long way in supporting some of the most vulnerable in our society.
Back in 2011, after two years of effort, the society managed to pull together the funds to purchase the former Hillcrest Store property at the corner of Dogwood Street and 9th Avenue and put four transitional apartments upstairs, with their offices on the main floor.
A few years later they secured two small side-by-side apartments in Campbellton so a few of their clients could have a more stable, longer-term housing situation. But the waitlist for housing kept growing and there were no other rooms available.
But now, thanks to a mortgage approval from BC Housing and a very patient local family, they are beginning construction on Linda’s Place, a 27-unit apartment complex just two doors down 9th Avenue from their home at the top of the hill, named after executive director Shelly Howard’s mother, who passed away 10 years ago and supported the society with a huge amount of volunteer work.
“It’s very exciting,” says Jennifer Kay, the society’s housing and programming coordinator. “We’ve been working on this for so long, and to see the trees coming down on the property making room for what we’re doing … well, it’s really exciting that it’s actually finally happening.”
People living with brain injuries aren’t exactly what anyone would call “ideal tenants,” after all, so they need somewhere they can be supported, even if it’s only in an increased level of understanding from their landlord.
“It’s about a safe, affordable place to live, as well as landlords who understand brain injury,” Kay says. “Sometimes our guys will forget to pay rent, or forget to pay their Hydro … they can be hard to rent to.”
Linda’s place, a mix of bachelor, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments – along with two three-bedroom units – will have half of the units set aside for clients of the Head Injury Support Society and half open to the general rental market.
“Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to afford the mortgage payments,” Kay says. “For our clients, we charge the lowest shelter portion that we can, and even for the other ones, we’re going to try and keep it below the market rate, because current rates are still really expensive. But it will depend on how much funding we get while we’re building it.”
Another thing they are excited about, Kay says, is that there will be space to have visiting medical professionals set up shop temporarily to help their clients receive services they’d otherwise have to travel long distances to access.
“A lot of brain injury specific services are only available in Victoria or Vancouver,” Kay says, “and that makes it really difficult if you’re on ministry funding to get to them. By having this space, we can bring some of those to town once in a while to help our clients.”
The transitional housing above the office on the corner will still be operational, as will their current long-term housing unit in Campbellton.
But in order for Linda’s Place to make its full impact on the situation, they need the community’s support.
“If we’re going to be able to keep the rents down so they’re reasonable, we’re going to need to do a ton of fundraising,” Kay says.
The building is targeted to be open for rentals as of the fall of next year, but Kay says it will really depend on how much work gets done over the next few weeks.
“I think, realistically, we’re going to be stopped by the weather shortly, so we’ll have to wait until the spring to start doing things like laying the foundation and really seeing a lot of progress, but we’re definitely hopeful we can have it open before next winter.”
Howard knows if her mother were still alive today she would be proud of the society’s newest effort.
“It didn’t matter what it was we needed help with,” Howard says, “she was always there with her support, from scrubbing toilets to making curtains for a new office space. She was an amazing lady and a great role model. If she was still alive I know she’d be getting dirty digging, hammering, making even more curtains, planting gardens and helping with the fundraising.”
Anyone who would like to help out can contact them by email at email@example.com, phone the office at 250-287-4323 or drop by the office.